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Archive for August 26th, 2008

Misuari willing to help end Mindanao violence

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:12:00 08/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari said on Tuesday that he would be willing to help seek an end to the ongoing fighting between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces in Mindanao.

“Government can, you know, pacify this matter quickly and if we can contribute towards the restoration of peace in that area, why not?” Misuari said after emerging from a meeting with Armed Forces deputy chief of staff Lieutenant General Rodrigo Maclang in Central Mindanao.

He also called on the public to refrain from making “inflammatory statements” that could further fuel the fighting.

But Maclang said he and Misuari did not discuss the hostilities in Mindanao.

“His concern is the [MNLF] integrees who left [the service] and want to return. He just asked for help,” said Maclang.

Maclang declined to elaborate on the meeting, saying he did not want to “preempt ” Misuari.

Asked if they discussed the fighting between the military and MILF in Central Mindanao, Maclang said: “Hindi naman binanggit sa akin [It was not brought up].”

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-26T10:44:22+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 26 Aug 2008 10:44:22 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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Troops advance to MILF stronghold in Lanao Norte–official

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15 rebels dead, 5 soldiers hurt since Monday

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:02:00 08/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Troops advanced to the reported stronghold of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Bravo in Piagapo town, Lanao del Norte province, sparking intense fighting that has left 15 rebels killed and five soldiers wounded since Monday, a military official said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Maguindanao province, sporadic fighting with the group of MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato continued, as the rebels retreated after days of sustained offensives, said Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Command Center.

“We are expecting heavy resistance from this area, these so-called strongholds of Commander Bravo,” Segovia said.

“Right now, as we speak, there is heavy fighting in Lanao del Norte, in Piagapo,” Segovia said, adding the firefight was ongoing as of Tuesday afternoon.

One soldier was wounded in Mamasapano town, while another was wounded in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, he told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

An army lieutenant was among the five wounded, Segovia told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Troops are running after Kato and another MILF commander, Abdullah Macapaar alias Bravo, against whom criminal charges have been filed for attacks on civilian communities in the provinces of North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte, respectively.

Except for the sporadic skirmishes, the situation in Maguindanao has been relatively “quiet,” said Colonel Marlou Salazar, commander of the 602nd Infantry Brigade that is running after Kato’s group.

“They are running low on resources. They have also been beaten up by the offensives,” he said in a phone interview.

Segovia said “hundreds” of MILF fighters not involved in the North Cotabato attacks were reported to have augmented Kato’s group, but retreated after they were prevailed upon by “third party negotiators.”

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-26T10:25:46+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 26 Aug 2008 10:25:46 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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‘Lawin’ maintains strength on way to Central, Southern Luzon

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1,900 stranded in Bicol

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 08:21:00 08/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 4) Tropical depression “Lawin” maintained its strength on its way to Central and Southern Luzon on Tuesday, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said late Tuesday afternoon.

At 4 p.m., the storm was located 80 kilometers northeast of Virac, Catanduanes, packing maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour near the center, PAGASA said on its website.

The weather bureau also expanded the scope of public storm signal number 1 (30-60 kilometer per hour winds) to 13 areas, including Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Burias Island, Sorsogon, Ticao Island, Quezon, Polilio Island, Marinduque, Laguna, Rizal, and Aurora

The raising of the storm signal led to the stranding of some 1,900 passengers and 20 vessels in various ports in the Bicol region after sea vessels were barred from leaving port, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported on Tuesday.

PCG spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo said the grounding of ferries and other boats is in accordance with orders of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that no sea vessels shall be allowed to sail once a public storm signal has been hoisted over their points of origin.

The order was issued after the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars, which capsized off the coast of Romblon in June 21 after being battered by typhoon “Frank” (international codename: Fengshen) with more than 800 passengers and crew.

As of 12 noon Tuesday, the PCG Bicol reported some 1,417 passengers are stranded in Matnog, Sorsogon; 389 in Tabaco, Albay, where three vessels were grounded; 43 in Virac, Catanduanes; 25 in Pilar, Sorsogon, where seven vessels were ordered to remain in port; 15 in Bulan, Sorsogon; and 11 at the Victory port in Legazpi City, Albay, where six vessels were not allowed to sail.

While no passengers are stranded in Bapor, Sorsogon, authorities have grounded two vessels there.

Moving west northwest at 17 kilometers per hour, the storm was forecast to be over Baler town in Aurora province by Wednesday afternoon, 260 kilometers west northwest of Baguio City by Thursday afternoon, and 600 kilometers northwest of Baguio City by Friday afternoon, PAGASA said.

“Tropical Depression ‘Lawin’ is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon and bring rains over Southern Luzon, Visayas and Western Mindanao which may trigger flash floods and landslides,” it said.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-26T10:25:00+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 26 Aug 2008 10:25:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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PAF confirms crash of C-130 in Davao Gulf

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Fuselage believed found–official

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 07:45:00 08/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Air Force (PAF) confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a C-130 with two pilots and seven crewmen that went missing shortly after takeoff Monday evening crashed into waters between Davao City and Samal Island in the south, the PAF commanding general said.

Human body parts, aircraft debris, and personal belongings, including the identity card of one of the crewmen, Sergeant Petronilo Fernandez, were recovered from the area, said PAF chief Lieutenant General Pedrito Cadungog.

“That’s it. No other C-130 aircraft was in the area,” Cadungog said in a phone interview. “We’re sure that it crashed.”

Early Tuesday evening, the officer leading search operations said Philippine Navy teams, using sonar, had pinpointed what is believed to be the fuselage of the aircraft.

The cylindrical silhouette, similar to the size and shape of a C-130, was found 2.5 nautical miles southwest of Samal Island sitting on the seabed 600 feet under the surface, Captain Rosauro Gonzales said in a phone interview.

Jet fuel on the sea surface in the area also raised hopes that it was the plane wreckage, he said, adding the slick could have minimal effects on the environment since the fuel evaporates quickly.

“We don’t have a visual yet. If was found using a sonar that could detect any sunken object. A cylindrical [shape was] reflected on the screen. It could probably be the crash [site],” he said.

Gonzales said personnel and equipment to search the wreck could be sourced from abroad given the military’s limited capability.

Cadungog said they are not discounting the possibility of sabotage by Moro rebels, although they will also be looking into pilot failure, and material or equipment failure.

“The Air Force has been in the limelight because of our air strikes [against] MILF lawless groups,” he said, noting there were no reports of maintenance problems with the C-130.

However, he said it was unlikely that the plane was shot down because rebel groups have no ammunition capable of hitting the plane from the ground while it is airborne.

Earlier, he quoted witnesses as saying they heard a loud explosion shortly after it took off.

A wheel and wheel strut from the plane’s landing gear were among the debris fished out of the sea, Cadungog said.

An investigating team, led by Colonel Manuel Morales, chief of the PAF air safety office, had been dispatched to the scene, he said.

The four-engine, American-made C-130 has no flight data recorder or “black box,” the PAF chief said.

The plane was declared missing after it lost radio contact a few minutes after takeoff from Davao City, en route to Iloilo City to pick up members of the Presidential Security Group. It was carrying two pilots and seven crewmen.

Cadungog said the last time a C-130 crashed was in 1994, when the aircraft slammed into a hill in the Bicol region in stormy weather.

The PAF has had the 37-year-old C-130 since 1983, Cadungog said.

The lone operational C-130 in the PAF’s aging fleet has been grounded for security inspection, he said.

The crash leaves only four C-130’s in the Air Force inventory, only one of which is operational.

One is undergoing maintenance, while two others are awaiting spare parts worth “millions” of pesos.

Major Gerry Zamudio Jr. of the PAF public information office said the crash could affect the military’s ability to transport troops and equipment amid a continuing offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Fisherman Venerando Serafica Jr. said he saw the plane plunge around 9 p.m. Monday, around the time of the plane’s last contact with Davao City air traffic controllers.

The plane was piloted by Major Manuel Zambrano while his co-pilot was identified as Captain Adrian de Dios.

Cadungog said Zambrano has logged around 4,000 flying hours, his co-pilot has around 1,000 flying hours.

“Yun medyo pinagtatakahan namin [That is what we are wondering about]. We could not think of some lapses on the part of the pilot, that they were not able to control the aircraft,” Cadungog told a later news conference at Villamor Airbase.

Cadungog said the C-130 was already about 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) up in the air when it made its last call requesting clearance for a flight path.

The pilots asked to turn left shortly after takeoff, towards the direction of Cagayan de Oro City a minute after takeoff, but he said this was “very normal” since this was in its flight plan.

He also said that even without radio communication, the aircraft could have landed safely.

Cadungog noted that the aircraft was fitted with a new engine and an auxiliary power last August 15. It had flown for four hours from Manila to Fort Magsaysay to Davao before it went missing.

With reports from Tarra V. Quismundo, Joselle Badilla, Phil Daily Inquirer; AFP

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-08-26T10:07:39+00:00+00:0008b+00:00Tue, 26 Aug 2008 10:07:39 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am08

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