ARMM, MNLF sign compact for security

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have forged an agreement to mutually cooperate in addressing local peace and security issues in southern Philippines.

Lawyer Anwar Malang, ARMM chief of staff and currently Interior and Local Governments secretary, recently met with Lawyer Randolp Parcasio, legal adviser of Nur Misuari, chair of a faction of the MNLF.

The MNLF move came as a total turn around from Misuari’s earlier provocative statements undermining the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro signed by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

ARMM is composed of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, areas covered by the Sept. 2, 1996 GPH-MNLF peace agreement.

Parcasio and Malang signed the “ARMM-MNLF Peace and Development Compact.”

Under the Compact, the group of Misuari is encouraged to cooperate with the ARMM leadership in addressing peace and order problems that have been causing poverty and underdevelopment in Muslim region.

Misuari said the accord abrogated the 1996 peace deal and threatened to bring his complaint before the pan-Islamic body – the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) which brokered the 1996 peace accord.

Under the Compact, both the MNLF and ARMM leadership will cooperate “to protect life, liberty and property of all the people of ARMM. (PNA)

MILF lauds Aquino on oil, gas exploration issue in Mindanao


COTABATO CITY, Philippines  – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has expressed gratitude to President Aquino suspending oil and gas exploration contracts in Mindanao as requested by MILF chieftain Murad Ebrahim.

Murad, during his news conference following the signing of the Framework Agreement two weeks ago, has asked the President to suspend oil and gas exploration in the Liguasan marshland in Cotabato Basin and in Sulu seas until the wealth-sharing issue is completely addressed.

“We urged the government to forego the awarding of these contracts,” Murad said, adding that the issue of wealth-sharing is still being discussed by the negotiators of both parties when they resume talks in Kuala Lumpur this month.

The MILF chief explained that the MILF is not against exploitation of natural resources including oil and gas in Mindanao provided that they redound to the benefits of the people and should be done in the proper time and conditions.

“Chairman Murad is correct. Wealth-sharing is one of the annexes that we have to finish,” President Aquino said in response to the MILF leader’s request.


The President was referring to the annexes of the government’s framework agreement with the MILF that will pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro region in southern Philippines.

“From what Energy Secretary Rene Almendras explained to me, we have not yet opened the areas for bidding,” the President added.

The MILF also welcomed the statement of former President Fidel Ramos saying that the peace pact with the MILF would have come much sooner had former President Joseph Estrada not declared an all-out war against the MILF in Mindanao in 2000.

Ramos said the offensive, declared by Estrada in April 2000, completely broke the government’s ceasefire and the peace negotiation with the MILF.

The general agreement on the cessation of hostilities was signed in 1997 in Cagayan de Oro City during the presidency of President Ramos.

“We thanked him (Ramos) for being very fair and objective in setting the record straight,” Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, in response to the former President’s comment.

Mantawil started to serve the MILF Peace Panel Secretariat in January 1997 when the first formal talks with the government commenced under the Ramos administration.

Ramos’ statement reflects the two past presidents’ vastly different approaches to dealing with Muslim rebels, with Ramos supportive of the new peace deal with the MILF while Estrada has been skeptical.

“Umiiral ‘yung dalawang agreement, ‘yung isa final peace agreement (with the MNLF), ‘yung isa ceasefire with the MILF (two agreements were existing then, one with the MNLF and the other was a ceasefire with the MILF),” Ramos said in a TV interview aired over GMA News.(PNA)

PLDT, SMART invest P856M Cebu-Bohol-Mindanao telecom link

Telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and its mobile phone subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) are building a new P856-million fiber optic cable (FOC) route that will connect Cebu to Bohol and then run on to Misamis Oriental, a press statement said on Friday.

This new facility, which will be completed by September 2013, will significantly boost the resiliency of PLDT transmission links to Bohol and the entire island of Mindanao.

The new facility will be initially equipped with 210Gbps.

”We have fast-tracked this particular project because the demand for broadband services -both from consumers and businesses-is growing rapidly in the Visayas and Mindanao areas, said PLDT and Smart head of network and IP systems Rolando Peña.

”This will further strengthen out fiber advantage over other carriers. At this point, PLDT and Smart already have over 54,000 kilometers of fiber optic cable assets over the country – several times larger than the resources available to the competition, he said.

The project involves laying down 450 kilometers (kms) of fiber optic cables from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro City.

A little over 300 kms of that cable will be inland while another 150 kms will be submarine links in the seas between Cebu and Bohol and between Bohol and Misamis Oriental.

The new fiber optic link to Bohol will provide 20Gbps of capacity to the island, while the link to Mindanao will carry 190Gbps of capacity.

With communications services in Bohol vastly improved, the provincial government will be able to pursue more aggressively its efforts to attract investments from business process outsourcing companies.

”Bohol has been trying to get investors to set up call centers in the province for the past several years. But the lack of robust communications infrastructure has been an obstacle,” Pena said.

Improved communications will also benefit Bohol’s successful tourism program, which has been growing steadily over the past years.

Tourist arrivals in the island hit the 550,000 mark last year, up from about 460,000 in 2009. The number is expected to rise as more visitors take to the province’s famous beach resorts and eco-tourism attractions.

”More and more tourists now routinely expect to have internet access in their hotels, or on their smartphones, laptops or tablets. With the fiber link to Bohol, we will be better able to support high-speed mobile and fixed broadband,” Peña said.

The project will also add a third leg to the two fiber optic highways already connecting Mindanao to the rest of the country via PLDT’s domestic fiber optic network (DFON).

One existing link runs from Cebu to Negros Oriental and then on to Ozamis City, Misamis Occidental, while the other starts in Cebu and then connects Leyte and then Butuan, Caraga region.

”By adding a third fiber link to Mindanao, we will be able to continue providing service in Mindanao even if we suffer two breaks in our transmission networks connecting the island,” Peña explained.(PNA)

MINDANAO among Asia’s top ten island in travel mag readers’ choice

Mindanao, despite its volatile peace and order situation, has been picked as among Asia’s ten best islands by readers  of an international travel magazine.

Mindanao, in southern Philippines,  Luzon and Cebu are among the top ten islands, based on international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveller’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Mindanao, with a mixed population of Christians, Muslims and indigenous people, has an active insurgency: the communist New Peoples Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberations Front (MILF). The Philippine government is negotiating peace with leaders of both, and has made a breakthrough last month with the signing of a framework of agreement for peace with the MILF. Resumption of talks with the communists is expected soon.

Luzon followed Bali in Indonesia and Phuket in Thailand as the third best island in Asia, with a readers’ choice rating of 78.9, ranking high in the criteria of friendliness, scenery, and ambience.

Cebu came in seventh place with a score of 75.9, and Mindanao ranked at tenth, with a score of 62.8.

Other islands that made it to the top 10 include Langkawi in Malaysia, Koh Samui in Thailand, Hokkaido in Japan, Malaysian Borneo, and Lombok in Indonesia.

At the same time, three Philippine hotels ranked in Southeast Asia’s top 20 hotels. Makati Shangri-la held the fifth spot, EDSA Shangri-la came in seventh place, while the Manila Hotel came in 20th.

Meanwhile, Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa was voted as eighth best resort in the Top 15 resorts in Asia category.

Conde Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Choice Awards has been running since 1988.GMANews

Power body moves to ensure enough supply in Mindanao by 2013

DAVAO CITY — The Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC)has started efforts to address the expected increase in power demand in 2013, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said on Tuesday.

“Mindanao is having a precarious power supply situation with average daily shortage of about 150-200 megawatts since the start of 2012,” Romeo M. Montenegro, MinDA director for investment promotion and public affairs, said in a statement. MPMC is chaired by MinDA.

Reports of El Nino expected to hit Mindanao by summer of 2013 as projected by the weather bureau compounded worries for lack of power as this could mean reduced water levels and output by the Agus-Pulangi power plant complex.

Montenegro said that the supply deficit could persist to around 300-400MW if no immediate measures are taken and may only improve in 2014-2015 when committed projects come on line.

“If we don’t do anything now, we might as well brace ourselves for two years of possible rotating brownouts, with four to eight hours especially in areas with no embedded or additional contracted capacities,” he added.

However, Montenegro said the shortfall can be addressed through the addition of capacities from quick rehab and upgrading of the Agus-Pulangi hydro complex to increase output by 100 MW.

He also cited tapping of embedded generators through the proposed Interim Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM) or the private sector’s voluntary Interruptible Load Program (ILP) which could generate 200-300MW. While another option currently being pursued is the reopening of the Iligan Diesel Power Plant (IDPP) which is capable of producing 100 MW in six months time.

He said by April 2013, power supply from the Iligan City diesel power plant is already available.

Montenegro said IMEM is a mechanism by which generators of big malls and industries will be tapped and auctioned to the market so that immediately, power will be available to the electric cooperatives.

“It is more or less 200 to 300 megawatt-capacity from the embedded generators of Davao Light and Power Company, five-megawatts from SM Malls, seven megawatts from Coca-Cola and other factories,” Montenegro said.

He said pulling this extra power together will yield 300 megawatts available to the market.

“The details of this plan are still being threshed-out, but the first public consultation had been done by the DOE in Cagayan de Oro City two weeks ago while other consultations will be done in other areas of Mindanao to get stakeholders’ comments since the plan impacts on the pricing of electricity,” Montenegro said.

He said ILP where the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will come up with a rate that will compensate for the use of generators by the industries.

Montenegro said industries will be paid based on the usage of fuel and oil and the depreciation of equipment as they pull away from the Mindanao grid during peak hours and turn on their generators.

“It is still subject to ERC approval since it is easier for industries to disconnect from the Mindanao grid, easing the pressure and consequently, providing more electricity to consumers,” he said.

Montenegro said more than a thousand industries have committed to participate in the IMEM and the ILP.

He also revealed the plan to move power barges from Visayas to Mindanao have not yet been realized pending the bidding process by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation.

He said it will require three months to move the barges from Visayas to Mindanao and additional months more for barges to be operational.

Montenegro said presently, 50 percent of the Mindanao power source comes from hydropower stations in the rivers of Agus and Pulangi which perform only at sixty percent of its capacity producing only 600 megawatts.

“A serious power shortfall persists (300 MW as of Monday) but we expect improvement of the situation when the 200 MW Steag coal plant is back on stream by November 11 after going through preventive maintenance shutdown,” Montenegro said.

He also cited other challenges facing Mindanao power such as the need to improve cheap hydro capacity which has been compromised by river siltation and rehab requirements; the rising share of costly fossil fueled power plants in the energy mix, and the need to fully tap clean, renewable and indigenous power sources to minimize foreign exchange and environmental costs.

Created through Executive Order 81 signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III on 30 July, MPMC is tasked to facilitate all measures that will improve power situation in Mindanao.(PNA)

Campaign backs GPH-MILF Framework Agreement

‘I am for Peace’ launched

ALEOSAN, North Cotabato — Peace enthusiasts, supporters, and advocates from Central Mindanao trooped down here Monday to witness the forging of the “I am for Peace” campaign, in rallying support for the peace initiatives of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

The campaign aims to seeks support, intensify and mobilize public consciousness and participation engaging essential sectors in the promotion of peace at the advent of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, a prelude to stabilize the peace process in conflict–affected Mindanao region.

Highlighting the activity was a free medical and dental mission at the municipal covered court simultaneous with the feeding program and fun activities for children.

Celebrated peace ambassadors actor Epy Quizon, musical artists Datu Khomeini and Sugarfree vocalist Ebe Dancel also graced the event.

A representative from Philippine Football Team Azkals was also present during the peace assembly.

Other highlights of the gathering of peace frontrunners aside from outreach program was the immersion of the peace ambassadors which elated Aleosan Mayor Loreto Cabaya.Cabaya expressed full support to the localized scheme on promoting peace in response to the foregoing development of the Framework Agreement.

“The local government will create a task force or establish a mechanism for our constituents even in remote barangays to fully comprehend this Agreement, our way of promoting peace,” said Cabaya, whose town was the center of armed conflict in 2008 between government forces and Moro rebels.(PNA)

FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT UPDATES: Misuari told: Support framework agreement

COTABATO CITY –- Influential comrades of Moro National Liberation Front founder Misuari who was with him when they formed the “Top 90 batch” of Moro rebels in late 1960s urged him to respect and support the framework agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“For the sake of Islamic brotherhood and for the sake of our suffering people, we urged Brother Nur to respect the agreement,” the MNLF Top 90 based in Lanao del Sur said in a statement.
While Misuari said the framework agreement is a ‘recipe for another war in Mindanao,” Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema, recognized by the MNLF Central Committee as chairman of the Moro group, is in full support of the agreement signed on October 15 by the MILF and the Philippine government.
“Please respect and support the framework agreement as the MILF respected the 1996 (GRP-MNLF) peace accord for the sake of Islamic brotherhood, our suffering people, and enhancing the Bangsamoro leadership towards peace, unity and progress in Mindanao,” the statement, signed by four Top 90 members said.
The manifesto was signed by Jamil “Jungle Fox” Lucman, Prof. Hassan “Sultan” Cana, Pacasirang “Nevada” Mamao, and Somerado “Mera” Pimping, all members of the “Top 90” group that led formation of the MNLF in late 1960s along with Misuari. (PNA)

British envoy vows support
for framework agreement
By Edwin O. Fernandez

COTABATO CITY — British Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie has assured the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government that the United Kingdom will fully support the peace process in southern Philippines.
Lillie made the assurance in his meeting with MILF chair Al Haj Murad in Camp Darapan, days after the Philippine government and the MILF signed on October 15 the Framework Agreement aimed to put an end to the Mindanao conflict.
“It was a cordial meeting, all of us were open and honest in discussing the issues surrounding the peace process and we laud the MILF and the GPH for coming up with a framework agreement,” Lillie said.
“We are very pleased that after a lot of hard work, the agreement has been signed,” Lillie said, adding that it provided the great foundation for peace and stability and development in Mindanao and it will be good for the whole Philippines because a stable and peaceful Mindanao is good for the whole country.
The United Kingdom is a member of the European Union which is part of the International Contact Group of the GPH-MILF peace process.

Hataman hails ‘historic’ agreement

By Apipa P. Bagumbaran

MARAWI CITY — Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman lauded the signing of the historic Framework Agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today.
Hataman said the ARMM welcomed this development with utmost sense of support and cooperation.
He said the pact brings the decades-long negotiation close to achieving its final goal – a lasting peace for the coexisting peoples of Muslim Mindanao.
Hataman thanked those who had worked hand-in-hand into the long process, whether directly or indirectly from day one.
He also credited both the first and the current Aquino administration for the breakthrough in the government’s peace dealing with the MILF.
“On-and-off to some points of discord in more than two decades, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III broke gridlocks in the first face-to-face presidential talk with the MILF leadership in Tokyo, Japan on August 4, 2011,” he said.
“Again, this presidential move effectively followed the straight path to waging peace, yet a similarly crucial decision on the part of then President Corazon C. Aquino, when she met MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, right in the heartland of the Moro conflict in Maimbung Sulu on September 5, 1986,” he added.
The ARMM Governor assured the public of a smooth transition to power in case parties would reach the summit of the peace negotiations.