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Philippines: Italy's post-Yolanda aid to benefit farmers, fishermen

28 January 2015 - 10:50pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Italy, Philippines

ILOILO CITY, Jan. 29(PIA)—Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Massimo Roscigno was here over the weekend to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor for a P21-M post-Yolanda assistance.

The assistance, according to Provincial Administrator Raul Banias, is intended for livelihood of farmers and fishermen in hard-hit northern Iloilo towns.

Ambassador Roscigno said earlier after Yolanda hit the province they already identified the northern towns of Iloilo for continued assistance, as expansion of their efforts in Leyte and Easten Samar.

The assistance included small agricultural equipment and machineries, such as hand tractors and threshers.

He said that these are small machineries but they can make a big difference in the field.

The assistance will be implemented by an Italian non-government organization through farmers organizations and cooperatives.

Banias said the provincial government will identify the beneficiaries and ensure success of the project.

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor said that the province is thankful for the continued assistance of the Italian government, who had sent relief goods and three military cargo planes to help in delivery, at the onset of Yolanda in 2013.

Incidentally he said, Ambassador Roscigno’s wife is from his hometown of Mina. (JCM/ESS/PIA-Iloilo)

Philippines: Philippines: ‘Build Back Better’ Works

28 January 2015 - 12:03pm
Source: United Methodist Committee on Relief Country: Philippines

By David Tereshchuk*

January 27, 2015—Severe weather continues to take a tough toll on life in the Philippines. Even Pope Francis’ January visit there had to be curtailed in the Tacloban area, as Tropical Storm Mekkhal, with torrential rains and winds of up to 80 miles an hour, approached. The pope was there to visit survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which decimated the area in 2013.

UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has been helping residents recover from Haiyan since the storm hit. That has included the construction of sturdy, specially built, new homes in the district of Calogcog, just outside Tacloban, in Leyte Province.

The intention was to build the homes back better, ensuring that that they would resist typhoon-strength winds. The design, developed together with residents, called for high-pitched roofs to enable access from the inside and allow for additional strengthening measures as needed.

It also was important to UMCOR to rebuild the homes in the actual neighborhoods where residents originally lived. It was clear the area could be made safe, and UMCOR sought to avoid a common response: uprooting the population and making them resettle in a distant location.

“It’s really helpful that we place people back in their original site of residence so that preexisting social support structures, such as family bonds, will remain strong,” said Francesco Paganini, UMCOR’s International Disaster Response manager.

Little damage after storms

In August 2014, the first residents moved into their new homes, and soon the new-style construction had its first serious tests. In December, Typhoon Ruby struck, followed by Tropical Storm Jangmi. More than 70 people died across the country. But Calogcog recorded no fatalities and comparatively little damage.

“Our permanent core housing provided strong resistance to the high wind-pressure,” said Malaya Conejos, UMCOR’s housing program officer in the Philippines. “Homeowners across the barangay (or neighborhood) told me they were very secure in their houses.”

The evident success of Calogcog’s new homes in resisting the force of these storms reinforces UMCOR’s belief that it is on the right path for helping communities in the Philippines to enjoy a more secure future.

“This is a long, energy- and time-consuming process,” Paganini acknowledged, “but like a strong physical foundation, it, too, will yield long-term resilience.”

In 2015, UMCOR celebrates 75 years of being with those in times of crisis. You can support UMCOR’s efforts to “build back better” following disasters with your gift to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450.

*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.

Philippines: Gov’t, MILF negotiators to meet in KL on decommissioning Moro group’s arms and forces

28 January 2015 - 1:18am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

From the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

The peace panels of the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will meet in Kuala Lumpur on Friday to sign the protocol on implementing the decommissioning of MILF arms and forces.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer announced that both parties will also discuss the plans for the first batch of weapons to be turned in to the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) that will supervise the processing of combatants who will be decommissioned and assisted in their transformation to productive civilian lives. The IDB will also be tasked with securing the weapons storage area where decommissioned weapons would be kept and put beyond use.

Both sides are expected to sign the implementing guidelines drafted and recommended by the Turkey-led Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB). Aside from the foreign expert from Turkey, the IDB is made up of experts from Norway and Brunei, and four other local experts jointly nominated by the parties.

“Ang signatories dito sa protocol implementing guidelines [ay] ‘yung panel chairs, ang chair ng IDB at tsaka yung facilitator ng Malaysia,” Colonel-Ferrer said.

The seven-member IDB is headed by Ambassador Haydar Berk who formerly served as Turkish representative to the North Atlantic Council (NATO) and current advisor of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other members include Jan Erik Wilhemsen, a retired brigadier general from Norway who was part of UN peacekeeping forces in Honduras, El Salvador, Central Sudan, Nigeria, and Nepal; Major Muhammad Aiman Syazwi Bin Haji Abdul Rahim of the Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF); and local experts, namely, retired Armed Forces of the Philippines LtGen. Rey Ardo, Dr. Mario Aguja, Von Al-Haq, ‎and Isah Bato.

The scheduled meeting came amid doubts over the implementation of the southern peace process following the armed engagement between members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) and armed groups in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao province on Sunday.

The two parties have a standing ceasefire agreement.

Implementation of decommissioning process

The decommissioning of MILF combatants and weapons are among the provisions of the peace deal or the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that the two sides signed in March last year.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal has earlier said that they are ready to undergo the decommissioning process and set to turnover an initial 75 high-powered firearms and crew-served weapons in a symbolic ceremony which will take place in the soonest possible time.

In its October editorial last year posted on Luwaran.com, the MILF said they agreed to undertake the decommissioning process “because of its sincerity and determination to solve the Bangsamoro Question in Mindanao.”

Under the Annex on Normalization, one of the key components of the peace deal, the decommissioning process will be implemented in four phases, along with other tracks such as socio-economic programs, confidence-building measures, redeployment of AFP, policing, disbandment of private armies and other armed groups, transitional justice and reconciliation.

opapp.gov.ph

Philippines: Leaders call for sobriety, faith in peace process amidst challenges

27 January 2015 - 9:06pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

MANILA, Jan. 28 -- Leaders from various sectors called on the public to remain committed to the peace process amidst recent challenges, especially the tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25, which claimed nearly 50 lives.

“[It’s] difficult but we still have to believe in the peace process. My brother, a captain, was killed in Basilan in 1998. I dedicated my support to waging peace in memory of his sacrifice,” Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said. The solon intimated that among those killed in Mamasapano was his cousin.

“The natural emotional tendency is to condemn, to doubt, to grieve and to call for aggression,” he added. “But the courageous thing for us to do is to pray and to believe, still.”

“The CBCP [Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines] mourns with the families of the gallant policemen, victims of an utterly senseless act of violence in Mindanao,” CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said. According to Villegas, while the CBCP condemns such violence, “we cannot side with those who call for the discontinuance of peace talks.”

“If anything, this sad incident underscores the necessity and the urgency of arriving at a solution that is not rushed but that is inclusive, principled and just to all,” Villegas said.

Several civil society organizations also called on the public to remain sober in the wake of the tragedy and highlighted the necessity of continuing with the peace process.

“As a nation, we need to be reminded about the importance of peace in Mindanao. We reiterate that between an ‘all-out war’ vs. an ‘all-out peace’, the former has been proven to be the most expensive,” the Al Qalam Institute said in a statement.

“We call for sobriety for all, including our policy makers, pleading and imploring your kind hearts not to derail nor halt the legislative hearing on [the] Bangsamoro Basic Law [BBL] because this will just clearly hinder us in attaining our goals for lasting peace in Mindanao,” the statement of the Lanao Peace Advocates reads.

The organization also reminded the public that “the tragedy should not be used to blind us in attaining what we desired as outcome of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF].”

“We call for all parties to continue pursuing the roadmap for peace in Mindanao,” it added.

“We maintain our support for the peace process,” the Mindanao Business Council said, while urging leaders in government and the private sector to be “careful and prudent in issuing public statements,” and asking members of the business community to extend assistance to the victims and their families.

“We need to recognize that our government and the MILF have established a ceasefire mechanism to handle proper coordination protocols on the ground,” the Al Qalam Institute reminded the public. “Despite several major conflicts in the past, the mechanism allowed the peace talks to continue and move forward for more than 16 years.”

Ceasefire is working

Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chairman of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), has reported that retrieval operations of the dead, wounded, and surviving Special Action Force personnel have been completed.

“We want also to report that we were able to immediately restore the ceasefire,” Galvez added in his report. Members of the government and MILF ceasefire committees, along with the International Monitoring Team also facilitated the retrieval of those who died and the safe passage of those who were still inside the area. More than 30 lives were saved from the brunt of the encounter in Mamasapano and civilians were spared from displacement through the ceasefire and peaceful evacuation of the troops.

“We would like to acknowledge the courage and boldness of our International Monitoring Team Member from Norway and Joint CCCH staff under MILF’s ceasefire chair, Rashid Ladiasan,” Galvez added. “Notwithstanding the ensuing intense firefight they proceeded to the encounter site to effect the ceasefire and facilitate the extrication of surviving troops and retrieve the cadavers under PNP SAF.”

The CCCH was created in 1997, and is composed of members from both the government and the MILF, along with neutral parties. Its mandate is to monitor the implementation of the GPH-MILF Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities and settle complaints on ceasefire violations to contain and prevent conflicts from escalation.

The IMT, on the other hand, monitors the ceasefire, socio-economic and humanitarian agreements between the government and the MILF. (opapp.gov.ph)

Philippines: Lessons from Haiyan: 5 steps to improve accountability to affected people

27 January 2015 - 12:38pm
Source: Plan Country: Philippines

Posted by Alex Jacobs, Plan International Director of Programme Quality

How can aid agencies be more accountable to people? Alex Jacobs, Director of Programme Quality at Plan International, shares lessons from Typhoon Haiyan.

27 January 2014: At a recent event to launch a special edition of Humanitarian Exchange Magazine on the Typhoon Haiyan response in the Philippines, we discussed how aid agencies can be more accountable to the people they serve. The concept of Accountability to Affected People, or AAP, as it is known in the jargon, means, in general, enabling them to influence what we do.

Everyone agrees it is a good idea. Or even a foundation of good practice. In theory, it ensures that the assistance we provide is relevant and respectful to the people we serve.

In the Haiyan response, there’s plenty of evidence that we’re getting better at it. And also that there’s a way further to go. (See also the CDAC Network’s material on Community Feedback Forms, which is practical, powerful and deserves replication.)

Tools for accountability
The organisation I work for, Plan International, along with World Vision and the International Organisation for Migration are collaborating on a project to trial common tools for accountability*, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. It’s a very encouraging area, that’s already been picked up by the UN in Iraq*. They are developing a single call centre for people to find out about humanitarian services and lodge complaints.

As ever, it’s more complicated in practice than we hoped. Different agencies are already using their own tools. We are supporting local media and government-citizen accountability, rather than setting up separate systems. See this recent field report* for more. Look out for a full report in May/June.

As a sector, we’ve been trying to reform practice for years (e.g. the HAP standard, the Sphere Core Standards, even the 1993 Red Cross Code of Conduct). But progress has often been trumped by other pressures, including overstretched teams struggling to design and run projects fast in chaotic situations.

The new Core Humanitarian Standard, launched last month, provides a chance for a new approach. We need a simple agenda that addresses the core issues that shape field work.

The 5 point plan
How about this initial 5 point plan to improve accountability to affected people

1. Invest in leadership at all levels
Without consistent leadership, accountability will be washed away by other priorities. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ AAP Coordinators have a crucial role to play, across the whole of any response. Within agencies, leaders need to be identified in head office and field offices with specific responsibility to ensure that accountability gets the attention it requires. And they need to be backed up by resources.

2. Simplify the requirements (and the jargon)
We need to simplify the requirements for transparency and community engagement, and build them into our core practice. This means cutting through the confusing jargon of: Accountability to Affected People, Communicating with Communities, Preventing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse etc. Can we settle on simple, intuitive terms instead? We need staff to focus on talking to local people in ways that work from their point of view, and include marginalised groups, rather than off-the-shelf tools. And we urgently need the international organisations that lead these different areas to work together on a simple, consistent approach.

3. Use collective approaches where possible
The more that different agencies use the same terms and tools, the cheaper and easier for everyone. And the easier for communities and government to understand us and talk to us. The Core Humanitarian Standard provides a common foundation. It may not be perfect, but it’s pretty good and that’s good enough. We should use it. We should collaborate on collective tools like feedback mechanisms, communication campaigns and assessment tools where possible.

4. Adapt project plans
Agencies need to be able to adapt their work in response to what local people tell them. Can we agree with donors (and internally) that we will review and re-plan the activities of all major projects 3 months after work starts (particularly in the first year of a major response); and then also at least annually? More flexibility would be better, but inevitably hard to organise on the ground.

5. Report beneficiary satisfaction
Donors and senior managers should require field teams to systematically report beneficiaries’ satisfaction with their work. This could be done however it makes sense in the context. It has the potential to generate real insights into the work carried out and reinforce a focus on listening and responding to local people.

This agenda is work in progress. I hope it can develop into a contribution to the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016.

For more on Alex Jacob’s thoughts, visit his blog: ngoperformance.org

  • Plan is not responsbile for the content on external websites.

Jan 27, 2015 10:49 AM

World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 21-27 January 2015

27 January 2015 - 10:43am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, Ukraine, World, Yemen

Snapshot 21-27 January

Nigeria: Boko Haram attacks continue, with Borno state capital Maiduguri and nearby military bases targeted on 25 January. Security forces pushed BH back from Maiduguri, but further attacks are expected. BH also raided villages in Michika local government area, Adamawa state. There are reports that BH has forbidden the use of vehicles in areas under its control.

Ukraine: 13–21 January has been the deadliest period since the ceasefire declaration of 5 September. The death toll had increased by 200 since the beginning of January, with at least 5,086 people killed in total as of 21 January. 10,948 people have been wounded. The number of IDPs has increased by almost 50,000 since 14 January.

Updated: 27/01/2015. Next update: 03/02/2015

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) Information Management Handbook Region 8 - Philippines

27 January 2015 - 7:18am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Philippines

Introduction

Over the past several years, demands for humanitarian response to natural disasters and complex emergencies – as well as strengthened humanitarian coordination – have continued to increase in the Philippines. This is noted by the recurrent occurrence of big natural disasters like Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) in 2009, Typhoon Washi (Sendong) in 2011, Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) in 2012, Bohol Earthquake in 2013, and the Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013. The OCHA country office, the sub office in Mindanao and Yolanda affected areas, provides support to the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) and ensures coordination of humanitarian action.

This document is intended for responders to an emergency doing Information Management.
During Super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) response in 2013-2014, OCHA introduced and tested new IM tools and services to provide more effective disaster response and humanitarian support. This hand book highlights the best practices, suggestions and guidance on information management that was implemented during the height of the Super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) response. We hope it can also provide resource materials for the future.

World: Achieving Development Results in Asia and the Pacific, 2013-2014

27 January 2015 - 12:02am
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Philippines, World

Summary

The report covers results achieved in 36 countries and territories in the Asia and Pacific region. It illustrates UNDP’s support to poverty reduction and conservation of natural resources, strengthening democratic governance, building resilience and responding to crisis.

 UNDP assisted people in strengthening livelihoods and empowering themselves.

UNDP has delivered US$2 billion in programmes in Asia and the Pacific during 2013-2014 to achieve the mutual aspirations of partner governments and donors in UNDP’s three main areas of development: inclusive development pathways, inclusive and eff ective governance and resilience. Promoting gender equality is a cross-cutting theme of our work.

Philippines: REACH supports efforts to improve sanitation in the Philippines

26 January 2015 - 3:33pm
Source: REACH Initiative Country: Philippines

In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, REACH assessments of damage to water and sanitation infrastructure informed emergency response and early recovery planning, including the rehabilitation of water systems and latrines in the most affected areas. More than one year on, the focus has shifted from emergency interventions to sustainable development, and there is a critical opportunity to address long-term sanitation challenges such as open defecation, which remains a major problem in the Philippines. Open defecation contributes to the almost 10, 000 deaths caused by diarrhoea every year in the country, and constrains economic and social development.

Planning and implementing sustainable solutions to this long-term challenge requires in-depth data which goes beyond infrastructure to encompass social norms. REACH worked to fill this information gap through a large scale assessment conducted in September-November 2014, comprising of (in each of six provinces) a large-scale household survey, community focus group discussions, a school survey, student focus group discussions and key informant interviews with representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Education and Department of Interior and Local Government. The qualitative and quantitative components of this assessment provided detailed baseline data on sanitation knowledge, attitudes and practices at household and school level across six provinces of the Philippines.

This baseline data will be used by UNICEF and partners to inform planning and implementation of the Philippines Approach to Total Sanitation (PhaTS) program, as well as to measure its progress. The program is expected to reach over 900, 000 beneficiaries, and aims to end the practice of open defecation through facilitating changes in social norms and fuelling demand for sanitation and hygiene; sustaining demand through supply side interventions; and promoting good governance, resilience and disaster risk reduction.

Malaysia: Asia Pacific Region: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (20 - 26 Jan 2015)

26 January 2015 - 6:31am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines

MALAYSIA

Between mid-Dec and mid-Jan, heavy seasonal rains and strong winds affected large parts of Malaysia causing severe and extensive flooding in Terengganu, Pahang, and Kelantan. In addition to the three most affected states, four other states in Peninsular Malaysia (Perak, Johor,
Selangor and Perlis States) and one state in East Malaysia (Sabah) also experienced floods due to the heavy rainfalls.

At the peak of the flooding, more than 230,000 people were evacuated and at least 17 people were confirmed dead. The Prime Minister of Malaysia put the total number of people affected at 400,000. As of 23 Jan, a few thousand people remain displaced and many more continue to be accommodated by host families or relatives.

8,400 people affected 17 people killed

OCHA continues to monitor flooding in Sabah and Sarawak where over 8,400 people were displaced. Local media reports indicate that while numbers in evacuation centers in Sarawak increased to over 5,700 people, numbers in Sabah dropped to almost 2,700 people.

INDONESIA

Floods have inundated approximately 2,300 houses in eight sub districts in North Kalimantan and East Kalimantan since 21 Jan. Furthermore, floods in Rundeng and Longkip Sub Districts in Aceh Province inundated 300 houses and displaced over 4,230 people since 17 Jan. Also, floods occurred in East Java affecting 214 families in two villages since 19 Jan. Local disaster management authroties and the Indonesian Red Cross are responding to all flooding events.

4,230 people displaced in Aceh

MYANMAR

On 14 Jan, fighting broke out in the Hpakan area of Kachin State between the Government of Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army. More than 1,000 people were displaced from Aung Bar Lay and surrounding villages, north-east of Hpakan. Displaced people and other civilians in the areas are in need of humanitarian assistance but access for humanitarian organisations remains restricted due to the proximity of the conflict area. Local NGOs, with support from UN and international NGOs and the Myanmar Red Cross, have delivered some assistance (food, blankets, mats and other basic items) to nearby areas. Local authorities are reportedly providing some assistance.

1,000 people displaced

PHILIPPINES

Insecurity and armed clashes increased in North Cotabato province, Central Mindanao as well as the province of Maguindanao. On 20 Jan, armed clashes occurred in Tulunan municipality between two groups considered to be Moro and Christian settlers. Over 110 people fled their homes.
Response to the conflict, related to a longstanding clan feud, depleted available resources while insecurity remains a concern, according to local officials.

110 people fled

Tropical Storm Mekkhala, the first typhoon of the year in the western Pacific, hit eastern Philippines on 16 Jan. A fact finding mission was conducted in Eastern Samar province to assess the extent of damage. Local authorities reported that the overall impact was minimal and does not require a humanitarian response. Mekkhala curved back into the sea off eastern Luzon and dissipated on Jan 21.

Philippines: ASEAN Weekly Disaster Update, 19 - 25 January 2015

26 January 2015 - 3:48am
Source: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Country: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand

PHILIPPINES

Storm

Storm Mekkhala affected Region V, VII and VIII. The government has evacuated 114,591 people as pre-emptive measures. As of now, only 420 people are still served inside evacuation centre.
The incident also claimed for 2 deaths.

THAILAND

Drought

Nong Ruea District in Khon Kaen Province experienced drought. The government supplied clean water to help 500 families in the area.

MALAYSIA

Flood

Flooding in Beaufort, Sipitang and Tenom in Sabah State has forced 4,000 people to move to the evacuation centre. As of now, the number drops to 47 people.

INDONESIA

Flood

Flood affected 21 villages in South Coast District, West Sumatra Province. About 11,000 people were affected and 7,800 people were evacuated.

Flood in Bengkayang and Sanggau District, West Kalimantan has affected at least 1,800 people.

Landslide 88 families were affected by landslide in Wonosobo, Central Java Province.

Wind

Twister struck 3 subdistricts in Bandung, West Java Province damaging 281 houses.

Philippines: Statement: GPH Peace Panel Chair Ferrer on the armed encounter in Maguindanao

26 January 2015 - 1:56am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

Statement of Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer: On the armed encounter in Maguindanao

[Released on January 26, 2015]

We are deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the tragic encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao yesterday, January 25, involving the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police and various armed groups.

Based on the reports of our ceasefire mechanisms, all efforts are being exerted to retrieve the casualties and provide safe passage to other SAF personnel who remain in the affected areas. Members of the International Monitoring Team, the Government’s and the MILF’s ceasefire committees, the 6th ID of the AFP and the regional police are working closely together in these efforts.

We laud the quick action of our mechanisms and their courage in immediately going to the conflict site. As soon as our ceasefire teams learned of the hostilities, they immediately effected a ceasefire. We regret however that due to the involvement of other armed groups, some intermittent fighting continued.

Our aim is to normalize the situation as soon as possible in order to prevent the displacement of civilians and give full swing to the humanitarian effort.

This incident and other recent acts of violence by other armed groups manifest the diverse security challenges that confound the peace process. But our resolve to see through the process of legislating the Bangsamoro Basic Law and implementing the different Normalization programs, including the security components, is only further strengthened. With better cooperation we will be able to prevent these kinds of incidents.

As we know, elements of the Philippine National Police—Special Action Force were conducting law enforcement operations in the area in pursuit of Malaysian bomb-maker and top Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, known as Marwan. This objective of arresting the growth of extremist cells lodging themselves in our interior villages and sowing indiscriminate violence remains.

‎We say to our fallen policemen: for your selfless courage, for your steadfastness in answering the call of duty, for your sacrifices in the name of peace, we salute and honor you. To their families and loved ones, we convey our deepest condolences.

opapp.gov.ph

Philippines: Red Cross responds to bomb blast; transports injured, provides blood

26 January 2015 - 12:50am
Source: Philippine National Red Cross Country: Philippines

Red Cross team from Zamboanga Chapter quickly responded to the scene of a bomb blast in Guiwan, Zamboanga City after an explosive device went off and killed one person and injured 52 more on January 23, 2015, according to report gathered by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Operations Center (as of 8am, January 24, 2015).

Based on the report, PRC Zamboanga Chapter setup a first aid station in the blast area to help treat those who suffered minor injuries. The chapter also dispatched two ambulances and which were able to transport 12 of the injured in different hospitals in the city.

Of the 53 victims, 19 were brought at the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC), two at Zamboanga Doctors Hospital, seven were received at Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center, nine were taken at Ciudad Medical Zamboanga, and 16 were brought at Western Mindanao Medical Center (WMMC).

The official Twitter account of the Zamboanga City government identified the lone casualty as Reynaldo Tan, 39 years old from Barangay Talabaan in Guiwan. PRC Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang said the chapter’s response to the incident did not end after transporting victims in hospitals. They also dispatched a team headed by Glen Barredo to check on the status and needs of the victims in the hospitals.

“Red Cross provided a total of 7 units of blood -- 5 units of whole blood and 2 units of pack red blood cell (PRBC) -- to the victims who needed it. A patient identified as Dennis Valiente, 33 years old, who was admitted at WMMC, received 3 units of whole blood and 2 units of PRBC (Type O+). While Benhar Cabayayahang, 20 years old, who suffered a head injury and was taken at the ZCMC, received 2 units of whole blood (Type A+),” Pang said.

PRC Chairman Richard Gordon sent his sympathy, on behalf of the Philippine Red Cross, to the family of the lone casualty and to those who were injured in the incident. “It is a sad commentary that there are people in this world who kill and maim their fellowmen. We pray that peace will finally prevail in our country,” he said.

Chairman Gordon also praised the immediate response of the team, “My commendation to our volunteers and staff of the Zamboanga City Chapter headed by Mr. Vic Liozo and chaired by Mr. Celso Lobregat for their leadership.”

Various stories published online regarding the incident reported that the bomb exploded inside a parked car at the vicinity of Fantasy Night Club, which is in front of the Guiwan Bus Terminal, at 3:15 pm. Media organizations reported that most of the blast victims are owners or drivers of the vehicles parked near the car that exploded and passersby who are in the area of the bus terminal when the explosion happened.

The type of explosive device and the people behind it, as well as the motive for the incident, are still unknown and are currently under police investigation.

Philippines: 30 Philippine police feared dead after clash with rebels

26 January 2015 - 12:23am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Philippines

Manila, Philippines | AFP | Monday 1/26/2015 - 05:36 GMT

Thirty police commandoes were feared dead after Philippine security forces clashed with Muslim rebels in the south, in rare violence that tested a nearly one-year-old peace accord, officials said Monday.

The eleven-hour gun battle took place when police entered the remote town of Mamasapano, held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), around 3:00 am Sunday (1900 GMT Saturday) without coordinating with the rebels as required under a ceasefire agreement.

Police had been targeting two high-profile terror suspects in the operation.

"This is going to be a big problem," the MILF's chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told AFP when asked how the fighting would affect the peace process.

He cited local officials and rebel fighters on the death toll, but said it had not been confirmed and that he could not yet say if there had been any rebel casualties.

Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan, mayor of Mamasapano, told AFP the bodies of 14 policemen had been removed and at least 16 others had been found.

Philippine national police chief Leonardo Espina and interior and local government secretary Manuel Roxas flew to Maguindanao on Monday.

In a statement, Espina said the police commandoes were chasing a "high-value target" believed to be behind recent bomb attacks in the south. He did not elaborate.

Iqbal said the police commandoes were seeking to arrest a member of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, among the United States' most wanted with a $5-million bounty for his capture.

Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli is the most prominent of the 10 to 12 foreign JI members in the Philippines. He went into hiding in the southern region in 2003 and has since been training local militants, according to the military.

Authorities were also allegedly targeting Basit Usman, commander of the BIFF rebel faction that is not part of peace talks.

Ceasefire monitors are investigating the incident, Iqbal said.

  • 'Not logical' to delay peace process -

The 10,000-member MILF had agreed to end decades of rebellion in the mainly Catholic nation in exchange for a proposed law now being debated in parliament that would give the minority Muslims self-rule in several southern provinces.

The rebels were scheduled to start the long and painful disarming process at the start of this year under the peace treaty.

"This is the first encounter between the MILF and (government forces) this year. Hopefully, this will be the last," Iqbal said.

"We are committed (to the peace process). For the MILF, the ceasefire still holds," he said.

The rebel group's vice chairman, Ghazali Jaafar, said the peace treaty signed March last year was the only solution to the decades-long conflict.

"It is not logical for anybody to delay the process," he told reporters by phone.

Sunday's bloodbath highlighted "security challenges" but nonetheless strengthened the resolve of negotiators, government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.

Over 1,000 people displaced by the violence have begun returning to their homes after the fighting stopped Sunday afternoon, mayor Ampatuan said.

The firefight in Mamasapano, about 900 kilometres (559 miles) south of Manila, was only the second since two soldiers and 18 Muslim gunmen were killed in a clash on the southern island of Basilan in April 2014.

Such incidents once broke out with much greater frequency prior to the signing of the treaty, during a rebellion that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Since the peace deal was struck, government forces have been going after the BIFF, a group of several hundred Muslim gunmen who last year pledged allegiance to Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Philippines: Gov’t to move 200 families from danger zones in Bicol

25 January 2015 - 11:29pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

By SALLY ATENTO-ALTEA

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan 26 (PIA) —The government is poised to move about 200 families from their shanties on hazardous areas in Camarines Sur for their own safety, a government spokesperson said Friday.

The plan is to save the informal settlers in Tinambac town from being sweeped away by floods and twisters, said Evelyn Jerusalem, the Department of Social Welfate and Development’s information officer for Bicol.

Jerusalem said the municipal government provided the land as its counterpart for the P14-million “core shelter” project, which is funded by the DSWD and supervised by the municipal engineering office.

The land has been inspected by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, she said.

Jerusalem said the relocation project mainly intended to provide decent and typhoon-resistant shelters to informal settlers who had been living in low-lying areas of Barangays Antipolo, Bulao, Balite, Bangi, Cagliliog, Magtang, Sugod, Bataan, Tierra Nevada, Olag Pegueño, Canayunan and Lupi.

She said core shelters are designed to withstand wind velocity of up to 180 kilometers per hour and magnitude-4 earthquake.

Jerusalem said each family received a check for P70,000 from DSWD core shelter assistance coordinator Maritess Quosmorio in simple ceremonies witnessed by Mayor Ruel Velarde and Vice Mayor Jun Barrion.

The beneficiaries have been organized and trained in canvassing, purchasing of construction materials and monitoring of the shelter construction, she added. PIA5-albay/dswd5

Philippines: Philippine forces, rebels report casualties in rare clash

25 January 2015 - 5:57am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Philippines

Manila, Philippines | AFP | Sunday 1/25/2015 - 10:50 GMT

Philippine security forces and a Muslim rebel group said Sunday they had clashed in the country's south with an unspecified number of casualties, in violence rarely seen since the signing of a peace treaty.

Police commandos and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members fought near the remote town of Mamasapano on the main southern island of Mindanao before dawn, regional military spokesman Captain Joan Petinglay said.

"Ceasefire monitors are now on the ground to separate the forces and remove the casualties," said Petinglay, speaking to AFP by telephone from the neighbouring town of Shariff Aguak.

Mohagher Iqbal, the lead MILF negotiator in a landmark peace deal signed in March last year, also confirmed the incident, but neither side would say how many fighters were wounded or killed, or to whom they belonged.

The 10,000-member MILF had agreed to end decades of rebellion in the mainly Catholic nation in exchange for a proposed law now being debated in parliament that would give the minority Muslims self-rule in several southern provinces.

"This is the first encounter between the MILF and (government forces) this year. Hopefully, this will be the last," Iqbal told AFP by telephone.

He said the police had entered an MILF-influenced area without notifying the group first, while searching for members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which disagrees with the peace talks and broke away from the MILF in 2008.

"They (police) ran into an MILF force. The ceasefire monitors are now in the area," Iqbal added.

"We heard some people were killed, but I believe this will not affect the peace process," he added.

Both Iqbal and Petinglay said a joint government-MILF ceasefire committee and a small international monitoring team of soldiers and police from Malaysia and other countries had arrived in the area by the afternoon to "disengage" the two groups.

The clash in Mamasapano, about 900 kilometres (559 miles) south of Manila, was only the second since two soldiers and 18 Muslim gunmen were killed in a clash on the southern island of Basilan in April 2014.

Such incidents once broke out with much greater frequency prior to the signing of the treaty, during a rebellion that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

After the April fighting, the government accused the MILF of helping Islamic extremists under attack from security forces. The group acknowledged four of its members were killed.

Since the peace deal was struck, government forces have been going after the BIFF, a group of several hundred Muslim gunmen who last year pledged allegiance to Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Philippines: One dead, 48 injured in Philippines blast: officials

23 January 2015 - 8:43am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Philippines

Zamboanga, Philippines | AFP | Friday 1/23/2015 - 13:26 GMT

One person was killed and 48 others injured Friday as a parked car exploded in the southern Philippines, with the local authorities blaming the blast on al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants.

Witnesses told police a parked car went up in flames and was torn to pieces in a powerful mid-afternoon blast that shattered glass panels in a commercial section on Zamboanga city's outskirts.

"There was a suspected bomb in the car," Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro, the city police chief, told reporters.

The explosion occurred in front of a pub and across the street from a bus terminal, he said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast and the lone fatality was not immediately identified, he said.

Most of the other casualties were cut from flying glass shards and are being treated at nearby hospitals, Casimiro added.

Zamboanga city Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco alleged the blast was linked to a plan by the Abu Sayyaf armed group to spring 57 comrades detained at the city jail.

She demanded that the national government remove the prisoners from the city and transfer them to a detention facility elsewhere so the city would not be targeted by bombings.

"This is an SOS call for the 57 inmates to be removed and transferred for the safety and protection of the city," Climaco told reporters.

The Abu Sayyaf, a loose band of a few hundred militants founded with seed money from Al Qaeda, has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history.

These have included the bombing of a ferry in Manila in 2004 in which more than 100 people died, and repeated kidnappings of foreigners in the southern Philippines who are usually ransomed off for huge amounts.

Many foreign governments warn their citizens against travelling to the southern Philippine areas, including Zamboanga, which are regarded as strongholds for the Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic militants.

The Abu Sayyaf claims it is fighting to establish an independent Islamic homeland in the Muslim populated south of the mainly Catholic Philippines.

The Zamboanga city jail warden, Julius Arro, told reporters that prison authorities foiled an attempt by unknown supporters to slip at least one gun and 100 bullets to Abu Sayyaf detainees on Monday.

No arrests were made, he added.

Since 2002, US troops have been helping train and advise Filipino troops fighting Abu Sayyaf militants, and the group has been mostly contained in recent years.

In September 2013, Zamboanga was attacked by another Muslim armed group loyal to former Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari.

The attack triggered three weeks of street battles that left more than 240 people dead and large parts of the city of nearly one million in smouldering ruins.

During the fighting, in which the rebels also used civilians as human shields, about 10,000 homes were destroyed by fires, forcing 116,000 to flee.

Misuari remains at large and faces rebellion charges alongside 57 detained attackers.

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© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Philippines: Philippines: Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) Eastern Samar 3W (as of 15 January 2015) (Southern Portion - Borongan to Guiuan)

23 January 2015 - 4:30am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Philippines

Philippines: Philippines: Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) Eastern Samar 3W (as of 15 January 2015) (Taft, Sulat, San Julian)

23 January 2015 - 4:19am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Philippines