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Feb 03 2008

Fighting Erupts In Sulu Ahead Of RP-US Training

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 04, 2008) – At least 5 people were killed in fierce fighting that broke out Monday in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, where security forces were battling Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants, officials and military intelligence sources said.

Officials said two soldiers and three militants were killed in the fighting that erupted before day break in the village of Ipil in Maimbung town, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group with ties to Jemaah Islamiya, an Indonesian terror group blamed for the 2002 deadly Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

“Three terrorists were killed and two of our soldiers are also slain in the fighting in Sulu. There is an ongoing operation against the terrorists,” Army Major Eugene Batara, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, told The Mindanao Examiner.

Batara said five soldiers were also wounded in the clash that began shortly before 3 a.m. “The soldiers were on a mission to rescue a kidnapped trader when they encountered the terrorists,” he said.

It was not immediately known whether the group was holding Rosalie Lao, 45, who was kidnapped Jan. 28 outside her home in Jolo town. Lao, who buys and sells Malaysian goods in Jolo, is a Filipino Muslim with Chinese ancestry.

The fighting erupted barely a week before US and Philippine troops are to begin joint humanitarian and medical missions in Sulu, about 950 kilometers south of Manila, as part of the Balikatan 2008.

Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder”, is the codename for the annual joint anti-terror training and hundreds of US troops are deployed in Sulu since last year where they also held a joint military drill with local soldiers.

Government intelligence sources said a group of Jemaah Islamiya militants were fighting alongside with the Abu Sayyaf. But it was unknown whether the militants were local recruits or Indonesians.

Filipino authorities previously said that as many as 40 Indonesian militants are hiding in Sulu and being protected by the Abu Sayyaf and among them are Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who masterminded the Bali attacks.

The heightened Abu Sayyaf activity on Sulu began when the military ordered thousands of infantrymen, including an army brigade, deployed to Lanao province on January 18. Only two marine brigades, composed of about 5,000 soldiers and a few hundred army troops, are left to quell a growing insurgency and terrorism, especially at a time that peace is slowly returning to Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Village leaders were also asking the military to send additional troops to Sulu to address the threats of the Abu Sayyaf, blamed on the spate of terrorism and kidnappings in the province.

Provincial government officials fear the Abu Sayyaf may be active again after months of silence. Officials were worried about the implications of the kidnapping and threats of terrorism to Sulu’s economy and the peace and order situation at a time the province is being promoted as a new cultural and tourism destination in southern Philippines.

Sulu has recently embarked on a tourism campaign called «Visit Sulu 2008» in an effort to attract visitors and investments in the province, whose pristine beaches, dive sites and beautiful tropical islands are one of its attractions.

The US Embassy in Manila on Monday said the Balikatan will take place in the Philippines starting on February 18 up to March 3.

“During Balikatan 2008, Philippine and U.S. members of the armed forces will conduct humanitarian assistance projects in Central and Western Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, and Palawan. They will offer free medical, dental, and veterinary care and construct and repair schools and other community infrastructure in communities most in need of assistance.”

“The Balikatan 2008 will also focus on training both of our armed forces to provide relief and assistance together, in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety. Military service members of our countries will conduct combined staff exercises and field training in Luzon and Palawan to improve contingency planning and strengthen maritime security.

Jan 29 2008

Waging Peace Through Laughter And Magic In Southern Philippines




AAI in action during the HELP Caravan in Sulu province in southern RP. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU, Philippines — Nurhikma, eight years-old, is among the nine children of Fatima. They live in the war torn village of Pang, Kalingalang Caluang in Sulu, Philippines, the scene of recent battles between government troops and guerilla forces.Nurhikma is among thousands of children in Mindanao who live in the shadow of fear due to the continual threat of armed conflict.

He was among more than 3,000 children who participated in four days of Kids Fun activities in Sulu and in Basilan war zones, from January 18 to 23, 2008 created and conducted by the Asia America Initiative (AAI).The surprise arrival of a clown, magician and face painters, along with an enthusiastic band of volunteer organizers was part of the first HELP (Health, Education and Livelihood programs) Humanitarian Caravan organized by the Office of Presidential Adviser for Peace Process (OPAPP).

According to Presidential peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, «This effort focuses on health, education and livelihood to provide development in the areas affected by conflict.» The caravan was a partnership of national and provincial government agencies including the Departments of Health, Education, Social Welfare, Trade and Employment, with logistical support by the Philippines Armed Forces.

The Asia Foundation contributed thousands of school textbooks. On site non-government agencies were represented by Asia America Initiative. Over a six year period, AAI has fostered «peace zones» and twenty «Model of Excellence» public schools and livelihood projects in Sulu, and has intervened in Basilan. «The Caravan is a venue of peace and thousands of local people are joining our efforts to spread peace in the whole of Sulu,» says Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.

Like a typical party for children anywhere, the fun days were packed with games, magic shows, a cheerful clown, face painting, cupcakes, and gifts-give-away of dolls and Spider Man toys. It was the first time that the children of Pang village in Kalingalang Caluang and Tugas of Patikul in Sulu, and the towns of Tipo-Tipo and Sumisip in Basilan experienced such fun-filled activities.

AAI Philippines conducted the Kids Fun Days as part of its campaign of «Building peace: one child at a time.» The festive programs aim to build support for the peace process by bringing smiles to the children and their families in the war zone of Mindanao.

Reflecting on Fun Day events, AAI Program Coordinator, Ms. Rohaniza Sumndad, says, «The children’s smiles and laughter were indescribable. The teachers, parents and entire villages all participated. They kept thanking us for making their children happy. The first step in ending conflict is all of us working together for our children, Christians and Muslims, and not abandoning people in communities full of uncertainties.

That is how a culture of peace begins.»AAI activities were supported by grants from Mr. Don Marshall of SALVTUG in Manila and the Shelby Cullom Davis Fdtn. in Washington, D.C., Mary Lanier and Bruce Pilley in California, and with medical donations from MedPharm in Virginia and the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in Naga, Philippines.

Jan 22 2008

Red Cross Boosts Capacity In Sulu Province



An unidentified Muslim member of the international non-government organization, Asia America Initiative, has her face painted during the group’s Fun Day in Sulu province in southern Philippines, where the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Philippine National Red Cross inaugurated new premises on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/Nickee Butlangan)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 22, 2008) — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) inaugurated new premises for the local PNRC chapter in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in the southern Philippines.

«The chapter’s improved facilities are intended to enhance the response of the PNRC and ICRC to the growing needs of Sulu communities,» Felipe Donoso, the ICRC’s head of delegation in the Philippines said in a statement. «These communities are suffering the effects of repeated armed clashes between the armed forces of the Philippines and insurgent groups.»

In its capacity as a neutral and independent organization, and in cooperation with the PNRC’s Jolo chapter, the ICRC provided medical care, food, shelter, essential household items and water and sanitation facilities to more than 48,000 displaced civilians in the province the past years.

Local government and military officials said the refugees have long returned to their homes.

The ICRC and PNRC were able to provide this humanitarian aid on the basis of security guarantees given by the parties to the conflict. In response to mounting humanitarian needs in Sulu, the ICRC has been gradually stepping up its support to the PNRC since 2005.

The ICRC consistently reminds the parties to the armed conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law. In particular, it calls on them to respect and protect the civilian population and to allow the distribution of humanitarian relief in accordance with the population’s needs and without discriminating on the basis of politics, race, religion or sex.

Both the ICRC and PNRC remain committed to providing humanitarian assistance and protection for the victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence.(With reports from Nickee Butlangan and ICRC)

Jan 21 2008

Thousands Of Infantrymen Leave Sulu Province


Army soldiers patrol a highway in the southern Philippine province of Sulu. Thousands of army soldiers begin pulling out in Sulu and would be redeployed to Lanao del Norte province as part of a new strategy to combat terrorism, officials say. The Philippine Marines will take over the Army in Sulu, about 950 kilometers south of Manila. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 21, 2008) – Thousands of Philippine Army troops have began withdrawing from the southern province of Sulu, where Marines have put up a permanent base as part of a new deployment strategy to effectively combat terrorism, officials said on Monday.

Officials said the 104th Infantry Brigade based in Sulu will be redeployed in the province of Lanao del Norte. The Philippine Marines will solely take over the security operation in Sulu, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

Philippine Marines have also taken over the Army in Tawi-Tawi province and have been deployed in Zamboanga City where they already established a base.

“The redeployment of army soldiers is part a new concept which will be more effective in addressing various threats, from terrorism to guarding our long coastlines.”

“The Navy and Marines will take care of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi as part of this new Fleet Marine Concept and our the infantry forces will be redeployed to Lanao del Norte province and other areas in the region,” Army Major General Nehemias Pajarito, commander of the First Infantry Division, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Pajarito did not say how many army soldiers were involved in the redeployment of forces, but several thousands of infantrymen are currently stationed in Sulu.

The Army was largely credited for the killing of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani in Sulu and several senior leaders of the terrorist group tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya the past years. (Mindanao Examiner)

Jan 21 2008

Sulu Launches Own ID System




Governor Sakur Tan distributes ID to villagers in Sulu province in southern RP. Gov. Sakur Tan says the ID system will help deter crimes and terrorism in the province. Patikul town Mayor Kabir Hayudini also shows reporters his ID. (Mindanao Examiner Photos/Nickee Butlangan and Arthur Abasolo)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 21, 2008) – Sulu province in the southern Philippines has launched its own citizen identification system aimed at curbing crimes and deter terrorism and served as a database for local census, officials said Monday.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said the provincial ID system was launched over the weekend in the town of Patikul, whose population now is more than 50,000. “We are going to issue identification cards in all towns and we have the support of the local government officials and the citizens themselves,” Tan told the Mindanao Examiner.

Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, has 19 towns – Hadji Panglima Tahil, Indanan, Jolo, Kalingalang Caluang, Lugus, Luuk, Maimbung, Panamao, Omar, Pandami, Panglima Estino, Pangutaran, Parang, Pata, Siasi, Talipao, Tapul and Tongkil.

Patikul Mayor Kabir Hayudini said his town will serve as a model for the implementation of the citizen identification card in other areas in the province, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

“The people are really very supportive of the ID system and that’s why we have Patikul as model for this citizen identification card system in cooperation with the Sulu provincial government, the military and police authorities and the national census (office),” Hayudini told reporters, adding, that those covered by the ID system are citizens 12 years old above.

Tan said the provincial government shouldered all expenses needed for the ID system.

“The identification card system in Sulu province is a collaborative effort between local governments, the Armed Forces (of the Philippines), the Philippine National Police and other stake holders of peace and development in the province.”

“The ID system will deter crimes and prevent terrorism because it would be easy to identify those who are not from Sulu and this will protect the citizens. It will also be beneficial for business and other transactions,” he said.

Tan said the local ID system is not part of the proposed national ID system.

“This is our initiative and while politicians and other groups in Manila argue about the national ID system, my province is already implementing our own citizen identification card system. This will also establish an accurate census in Sulu,” he said.

A census is an enumeration of all the people of a village or a systematic and complete count of all who are living in specified places.

The local ID system includes a photo of the holder and the following information — the date and place of birth, civil status, blood type, age, address, thumb prints and sex among others.

Provincial mayors and Muslim religious leaders and business groups lauded the ID system in Sulu province.

The launching of the ID system in Sulu coincided with the closing of the two-day peace caravan joined by thousands of Muslims.

The caravan was a collaborative effort of government agencies and various non-government agencies to address the immediate health, education and livelihood needs of communities affected by conflict.

Tan said the caravan, which began on Friday in the town of Jolo went around Patikul and Kalingalang Caluang towns, scene of previous clashes between rebels and soldiers.

He said the caravan was also aimed at consulting with the communities on their medium and long term concerns particularly on livelihood and employment aspect as well as provides a humanitarian face to the ongoing conflict in Sulu.

He said the caravan provided several millions of pesos in aids to support peace and development in Sulu. The Department of Education also pledged to send at least 15 tons of assorted books to different government schools in the province, Tan said.

Tan also released buffaloes for local farmers and led government officials in medical and dental missions in far-flung villages in Luuk and Patikul town during the caravan.

Jan 11 2008

RP Military Orders Transfer Of US Camp In Sulu

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 11, 2008) – The Philippine military said it would relocate a marine camp put up near a government hospital in the southern province of Sulu after a scandal involving US troops.

US troops in Sulu ordered last month a hospital in Panamao town to close every night and prevented medical personnel from treating patients after sundown. American troops who put up their camp at a Filipino marine base near the hospital even told the doctors to treat their patients at the municipal hall.

Dr. Silak Lakkian, head of the hospital, has complained about how US troops meddled into their operations. US soldiers also threatened to shoot anybody in the hospital incase there is an attack by terrorists. American soldiers have been in Sulu since 2006 to train local forces to hunt members of the Abu Sayyaf group said to have links to Al-Qaeda.

The meddling of US troops in local affairs drew widespread criticism and protests from provincial leaders and triggered calls from political activists in Manila for Congress and Senate to hold an investigation into the incident.

US military commanders in Sulu apologized for the incident and the Philippine military ordered the soldiers away from the hospital. US soldiers insist there is a threat against them in the town from suspected Abu Sayyaf militants.

“We will transfer the marine base and probably put it in another village,” Philippine Army Maj. Gen. Ruben Rafael told the Mindanao Examiner.

Rafael said they were considering transferring the base in the village called Bitan-ag, a former rebel stronghold also in Panamao town.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan allowed the resumption of the hospital operations at night to cater to emergencies and patients in Panamao after a meeting with military and town officials.

“The hospital has resumed operations at night and everything is back to normal again,” Brigadier General Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the local Army Special Forces, said.

Philippine and US troops are to begin a new joint military training called Balikatan 2008 in Sulu in March.

Balikatan, which means «shoulder-to-shoulder,» is the codename of the joint anti-terror drill held each year since 2001. The training is part of Washington security assistance to the Philippines, a key US ally in Southeast Asia in the so-called global war on terrorism. (Mindanao Examiner)

Jan 09 2008

RP, US To Hold New Anti-Terror Training In Sulu

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 10) – Philippine and US troops are to begin a new joint military training in the southern province of Sulu, where Filipino authorities are fighting the Abu Sayyaf and Muslim rebels.

“We are now preparing for the Balikatan 2008 and it would probably start in March,” Maj. Gen. Ruben Rafael, commander of the Philippine anti-terror Task Force Comet in Sulu, told the Mindanao Examiner newspaper.

Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is the codename of the joint anti-terror drill held each year since 2001.

Rafael did not say how many troops, aircrafts and vessels, would be involved in the training. American military and embassy officials did not give any statement about the training, but U.S. Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) is in the Philippines to meet with senior officials and review U.S. assistance programs.

Smith serves on the House Committee on Armed Services, where he chairs the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Warfare and Capabilities. He also serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

It was unknown if Smith would visit hundreds of US troops deployed in Zamboanga and Sulu. A similar training was also held in Sulu in 2006 and since then US troops remain on the province, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

The Balikatan demonstrates Washington’s resolve to continue the commitment to train, advice and assist the Philippine military to build capacity to counter terrorism.

The Balikatan includes support for comprehensive defense reform; security assistance modules for counter-terrorism training; operations intelligence fusion; and aspects in education programs, logistics, and engineering, equipment, and maintenance and helicopter programs.

It will also enhance the skills and capabilities of Filipino and American forces in combating terrorism and other internal and external security threats. And improve inter-operability between RP and US forces through the exchange of training skills and techniques.

The training is part of Washington security assistance to the Philippines, a key US ally in Southeast Asia in the so-called global war on terrorism.

But a recent scandal involving American soldiers in Sulu province has sparked new protests and anti-US sentiments from Muslim villagers and political activists.

US troops in Sulu ordered last month a hospital in Panamao town to close every night and prevented medical personnel from treating patients after sundown.

Dr. Silak Lakkian, head of the hospital, has complained about how US troops meddled into their operations.

US soldiers also threatened to shoot anybody in the hospital incase there is an attack by terrorists. American soldiers have been in Sulu since 2006 to train local forces to hunt members of the Abu Sayyaf group said to have links to Al-Qaeda.

The meddling of US troops in local affairs drew widespread criticism and protests from provincial leaders and triggered calls from political activists in Manila for Congress and Senate to hold an investigation into the incident. The US military denied all accusations and blamed the local media for the bad publicity.

The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) called on Congress and the Senate to immediately launch a thorough probe on the real role of US troops in Mindanao.

“We are calling on both Houses of Congress, to call for respective investigations on the matter…We have to uphold our sovereignty if not then foreigners will just trample it under their feet,» Rafael Mariano, chairman of KMP and president of the Anakpawis party-list group, said.

Communist rebels in the past have also accused the United States of using the Balikatan to justify the presence of American troops in the Philippines.

”This is nothing, but US military interventionism’s standard doublespeak. As they have done in the past, the US is using the ‘joint military exercises’ to justify its military presence and induce conditions for higher levels of intervention and eventual outright military aggression.”

“They intentionally let its troops become targets of hostile fire and once hit, they unleash all their forces and superior weaponry on the pretext of self-defense and launch all-out aggression from then on,” said rebel spokesman, Gregorio Rosal.

Philippine military officials said the US troops would not be involved in actual combat operation against terrorists in the troubled region. They said the Constitution prohibits foreign troops from participating in combat, but are allowed to defend themselves from armed attacks. Rafael said Filipino and US troops are active in humanitarian activities in Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner)

Jan 08 2008

Manila To Pursue Peace With Muslim Rebels

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 08, 2007) – Philippine Defense chief Gilberto Teodoro on Tuesday said the government is pursuing a peace deal with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Peace talks with the MILF failed last month after government and rebel peace negotiators disagreed over the issue of the Muslim ancestral domain.

“We are committed on the peace process and we hope the same is also with the MILF,” Teodoro told reporters in Sulu where he spoke to students at the 1st Youth Leadership Program organized by Gov. Sakur Tan.

Last week, Murad Ebrahim, the leader of the MILF, appealed for patience over the failure of peace talks. ”The road to freedom is always full of twist and turn and to overcome, we must work, persist, and sacrifice,” Ebrahim said.

The Philippine panel agreed late last year on the scope of the Muslim ancestral domain, but later reneged on the accord that will constitute a separate homeland for more than 4 million Muslims and indigenous tribes in Mindanao.

The MILF is fighting for a separate Muslim homeland in the strife-torn, but mineral-rich region of Mindanao. It accused the government of reneging to its commitment after peace talks in December failed in Malaysia, which is brokering the negotiations.

Many rebel commanders are getting frustrated and restless over the failure of the seven-year old peace talks with the Arroyo government.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said the government must honor its commitment and previous agreement so the talks could resume. Iqbal said the MILF wanted a peace deal with Manila, but his group is also consistent with their demand for a Muslim homeland.

The MILF said government negotiators headed by Rodolfo Garcia completely disregarded the agreement on the ancestral domain and insisted again that the granting of homeland to Muslims in Mindanao would solely be through Constitutional process which the rebel group previously opposed.

The Philippine charter prohibits the dismembering of the country. The ancestral domain which covers the whole of Muslim autonomous region and other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And even Palawan Island in central Philippines and the Sulu Archipelago.

President Arroyo has opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001, but since then no substantial agreements have been signed between the two sides, expect for the cease-fire accord.

The MILF earlier warned that hostilities may erupt in Mindanao if the peace talks fail.

Teodoro said the problems of the MILF can only be solved by amending the Constitution. “Changing the Constitution is an affective tool to allow different communities to make their own decisions. There is nothing wrong that and the problem here is that we are afraid of change,” he said.

While in Sulu, Teodoro and Tan held a separate dialogue with more than 100 students and scholars and dozens of Muslim preachers.

Teodoro said the government is supporting peace and development program in Sulu. “We are here to help everybody and bring peace and development to Sulu,” he said.

They also visited patients at the Sulu Provincial Hospital where they briefly spoke with nursing students and medical staff headed by Dr. Farah Omar before proceeding to a short meeting with military officials.

The peace and order is improving a lot in Sulu because of the cooperation of the public and we are now embarking on a new tourism and investment programs will attract visitors and traders as well,” Tan said.

Tan was referring to the “Visit Sulu 2008” and “Wow Sulu” tourism program which aimed to promote the many beautiful islands and pristine beaches here and its culinary cuisine similar with the spicy Indonesian and Malaysian foods famous in the southern Philippines.

Jan 06 2008

Turismo Ng Sulu, Isinusulong!

SULU (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 06, 2008) – Sisimulan na umano ng Sulu ang promosyon nito sa turismo upang maisulong ang programang “Visit Sulu 2008”.

Layunin umano ng pamahalaang panlalawigan na ipakita ang magagandang tanawin sa Sulu at ibat-ibang kinaugalian.

Bukod sa mga magagandang tanawin ay ipinagmamalaki rin ng mga Tausug ang masasarap nitong mga pagkain at kakanin na talagang kilala sa katimugan dahil sa likas na pagka-maanghang ng bawat lutuin.

“We would like to invite everybody to come and visit Sulu and enjoy our traditional hospitality, nice places and good food, aside from our wealth of cultural heritage,” ani pa ni Gov. Sakur Tan sa pahayagang Mindanao Examiner.

Sinabi nitong bahagi ng programang “Wow Sulu” ang “Visit Sulu 2008”. “Maganda talaga an gaming lalawigan kung kaya’t nais naming na i-promote ang Sulu bilang isa sa mga lugar na likas ang yaman sa kagandahan.

Maging ang militar ay abala na rin sa pagsuporta sa turismo ng Sulu at katunayan ay may inilunsad itong eco-tourism program sa lalawigan at ang Mt. Daho ang isa sa mga bundok na talagang inalagaan ng husto ng mga sundalo.

Pinagbawal na rin doon ang pagputol ng kahoy at isang mountain trek ang itinayo na kung saan ay makikita ang ibat-ibang bayan mula sa pinakamataas na bahagi nito.

“That’s true and we hope this eco-tourism campaign will attract tourists, both local and foreigners, and also mountain trekkers,” wika naman ni Brig. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan ng Philippine Army.

Sinabi pa ni Tan na dalawang airliners – ang Asian Spirit at Sea Air – ang siyang bumibiyahe araw-araw sa Sulu mula Zamboanga, bukod pa ang maraming mga ferries.

Dec 30 2007

Is It War On Terror Or War On Civilians Or Simply Paranoid? US Military Reprimanded In Philippines

SULU ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 31, 2007) – The Philippine military ordered US troops away from a government hospital after they forcibly closed it down in the southern province of Sulu.

US troops ordered Muslim doctors and hospital staff to close down the Panamao District Hospital at night since December 3. American troops who put up a base near the hospital even told the doctors to treat their patients at the municipal hall.

Dr. Silak Lakkian, head of the hospital, has complained about how US troops meddled into their operations.

US soldiers insist there is a threat against them in the town from suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, but the report was disputed by local security forces.

American soldiers are in Sulu since 2006 to train Filipino troops and assist and advice them in the so-called war on terror. Rebels are active in Sulu province, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

On Monday, the Philippine military banned US soldiers from near the hospital and even sent Filipino soldiers to guard the hospital.

The governor of Sulu, Sakur Tan, allowed the resumption of the hospital operations at night to cater to emergencies and patients in Panamao after a meeting with military and town officials over the weekend.

At the meeting, the US military commanders in Sulu apologized for the incident.

“The hospital has resumed operations at night and everything is back to normal again,” Brigadier General Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the Philippines Army Special Forces in Sulu, told Mindanao Examiner.

The news of the incident only broke out Saturday after hospital staff complained to authorities and journalists about how US troops forcibly shut down the hospital at night and even threatened to shoot anybody if there was an attack against the foreigners.

“US troops have no authority to impose on us,” the governor said.

The US military tried to cover up the incident and denied it ever happened and blamed the local media for the “blunder.”

Local villagers and some Filipino troops also have complained about the arrogance of US soldiers in Sulu. Some US troops have allegedly treated Filipino soldiers like vassal.

Some US troops also prevented curious Muslim villagers to go near them in public places as though the locals were terrorists.

American troops had in the past also harassed Filipino journalists who were covering joint RP-US military war games in Zamboanga City and Sulu and in some occasions arrested and seized the cameras of reporters who took photos and videos of them.

It was also in Sulu that hundreds of US soldiers slaughtered some 800 Muslim villagers, including innocent women and children, during the Moro rebellion in March 1906 that has become known as the First Battle of Bud (Mount) Dajo also called the «Moro Crater Massacre.»

During this battle, 790 men and officers, under the command of Colonel J.W. Duncan, assaulted the volcanic crater, which was held by several hundred rebels protecting Muslim villagers. (Mindanao Examiner)

Dec 24 2007

Militants Attack Southern Philippine Village

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 24, 2007) – Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants attacked a remote village in the province of Sulu, about 950 kilometers south of Manila, officials said Monday.

Officials said the gunmen strafed the village of Latih in Patikul town, but no one was hurt or killed in the attack.

Initial military reports said about ten gunmen fired indiscriminately to the village and apparently were targeting the village chieftain Ahmad Albani.

The motive of the attack was unknown, but Albani is a staunch military supporter. (Nickee Butlangan)

Dec 16 2007

Blast Kills 1, Injures 2 In Sulu Province

A government soldier, Marine Sgt. Cyril Padenilla, 32, wounded in a grenade blast Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007 lies unconscious at the Sulu Provincial Hospital. A woman, Janet Mansog, 32, is also wounded in the blast that killed a military informant, Arnold Cataylo. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/Nickee Butlangan)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 16, 2007) – One person was killed and three others wounded, including a government soldier, when a grenade exploded late Sunday in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, police said.

Police said the killed man, Arnold Cataylo, 25, was toying with the grenade when it exploded in the village of San Raymundo in Jolo town.

A soldier, Sgt. Cyril Padenilla, 32, assigned with the Philippine Marines, and a woman, Janet Mansog, 32, were wounded in the blast at around 8.30 p.m.

Police said Cataylo was instantly killed while the wounded were rushed to the Sulu provincial hospital.

Superintendent Hakam Pae, the acting provincial police chief, said the victims were apparently drunk. It was not immediately known who owned the grenade, but Cataylo was allegedly a military informant.

Two other women identified only on their first names, Marimar and Gemma, who were with the group fled after the explosion, Pae said.

“We are still investigating the case. Policemen recovered two automatic pistols near the blast site,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Policemen were searching for the two women to shed light on the investigations. Pae said the blast was an isolated incident.

Liquor and wines are strictly prohibited in the largely Muslim province, but some convenience stores still sell them mostly to Christian soldiers stationed in the province, about 950 kilometers south of Manila.

Bars and karaoke clubs run by Christians also sprouted near military bases in Jolo.

(Nickee Butlangan)

Dec 14 2007

Now Accepting Sponsorships, Ads For TV, Cable Debut Of Documentary Film “Sulu”


Mindanao Examiner Productions are now accepting sponsors for the television and cable television premiere of the documentary film “Sulu,” which will be shown in January in Zamboanga City and Sulu province.

Sponsors will also receive a free copy of “Sulu,” one of more than two dozens films shown Dec. 5-11, 2007 at the film festival held in Manila. The film, along with others, will also be shown in Japan, Canada and East Timor in 2008.Minor Sponsor P 10,000 ($250) – 2 spots at 15 seconds each (for Zamboanga City or Sulu showing)Major Sponsor P 20,000 ($450) – 2 spots at 15 seconds each (for both Zamboanga City and Sulu showings)For advertising insertion, please submit all text, video, photos or logos by to the Mindanao Examiner.Please make all checks payable to: Mindanao Examiner C/A 9525 8057 32, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Veterans Branch, Zamboanga City.

Or call our Marketing and Advertising Department at telephone & fax: +6362 9925480 or mobile phones: +63915 2756606, +63919 3587983 or e-mail us at mindanaoexaminer@gmail.com.

Production & Sales Offices: Units 1 & 2, 3/F MP Towers, Nunez St., Zamboanga City 7000 Philippines»SULU» — 2007 / Documentary.KONTRA-AGOS RESISTANCE FILM FESTIVAL December 5-11, 2007 at Indie Sine, Robinson’s Galleria, ManilaPlot:Born of a Muslim mother, young writer Arthur Sakaluran Abasalo decides to visit Sulu despite the perceived strife and presence of Muslim rebels and Abu Sayyaf terrorists. In Sulu, he meets a former Muslim rebel-turned policeman who tells him about his life story and how he got separated from his family for more than a decade.He returns to Sulu to start a new life after being reunited with his family.Arthur returns to Manila after a short stay in Sulu, bringing with him memorable stories and truths about the island feared by many as a dangerous place to go.This film, along with six other short films from Mindanao, had its World Premiere on December 6, 2007 at Indie Sine, Robinson’s Galleria, Ortigas Center in Pasig City. A Mindanao Examiner Production. Directed by Al JacintoPart of the proceeds will go to the street children in Sulu province.

Dec 12 2007

Philippine Congress Doubles Subsidy For Islamic Schools

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 12, 2007) – Sulu provincial Governor Sakur Tan lauded the Philippine Congress for doubling the allocation for the government’s Basic Education Madrasah Program.

The increase in funding will enable the government to train additional teachers in English, Arabic and Islam, develop new instructional materials, and rigorously monitor the performance of a new standard, Cebu Representative Eduardo Gullas said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.He said the Basic Education Madrasah Program seeks to lift to the national average the learning level of Filipino-Muslim school children. Madrasah is Arabic term for school.“We welcome this development and surely this will be a big help in the Madrasah program,” Tan told the Mindanao Examiner.Sulu in the southern Philippines is one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.The Department of Education (DepEd) is specifically targeting the training of 2,668 teachers as well as the production and distribution of 800,400 new textbooks to reinforce the Basic Education Madrasah Program, according to Gullas.The textbooks set for distribution next year is 50 percent more than the manuals being distributed this year, Gullas said.Government-subsidized Islamic schools offer the standard public school curriculum as well as Arabic literacy and Islamic religious subjects.Without counting the schools in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, DepEd currently has 459 public schools nationwide implementing the Basic Education Madrasah Program.Gullas said the fresh funding for Islamic schools would give more meaning to the Constitutional mandate for the State «to establish, maintain and support a complete, adequate and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society.»A report by the DepEd earlier warned that decades of neglect have made tens of thousands of Muslim out-of-school youth (OSY) in Metro Manila and other urban districts susceptible to recruitment by both Islamic extremists and criminal elements.Many of the Muslim OSY are products of extreme poverty and the lingering armed conflict in Mindanao, the report said.

To address the problem, DepEd has been building up the Basic Education Madrasah Program as well as the Alternative Learning Program for Muslim OSY.

Dec 08 2007

Poll Office Bombed In South RP

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 09, 2007) – A homemade bomb exploded at the Commission on Elections ahead of a special polls in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said Sunday.

The explosion late Saturday damaged the door of the office, but there were no reports of injuries, said Jainab Abdulmajid, of the Sulu Area Coordinating Center.

«It was a small explosion, but the office door was damaged by the blast,» she told the Mindanao Examiner.

Sulu military chief Maj. Gen. Reuben Rafael said the blast occurred at around 10.30 p.m. «We have deployed soldiers to secure the area. We still do not know who is behind this bombing,» he said in a separate interview.

He said the bomb, made from ammonium nitrate, was left at a garbage bin in front of the provincial office of the Commission on Elections near Jolo town. «There is an investigation going on,» he said.

Brig. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of army special forces in the province, said more soldiers were deployed to patrol the area. «We have forces deployed to help policemen secure the province ahead of the special polls,» he also said.

Pabustan said there is an ongoing operation against rebels in Sulu. The blast came ahead of special village and youth elections in Sulu and seven other provinces on December 15.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan has ordered an investigation into the blast and additional police forces in the town. «We will go to the bottom of this. We will not allow this criminal act. We are peaceful in Sulu and I have ordered the police to find the perpetrator of this blast,» he said.

Elections in May failed in some towns in Sulu because many teachers tapped as poll officers did not report for work due to threats to their lives.

Others had refused to work because of non-payments of their salaries since early this year by the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Dec 04 2007

“Sulu” Premieres In Manila December 6, 2007

«SULU» — 2007 / Documentary

KONTRA-AGOS RESISTANCE FILM FESTIVAL begins on December 5-11, 2007 at Indie Sine, Robinson’s Galleria, Manila

Plot:

Born of a Muslim mother, young writer Arthur Sakaluran Abasalo decides to visit Sulu despite the perceived strife and presence of Muslim rebels and Abu Sayyaf terrorists. In Sulu, he meets a former Muslim rebel-turned policeman who tells him about his life story and how he got separated from his family for more than a decade.

He returns to Sulu to start a new life after being reunited with his family.Arthur returns to Manila after a short stay in Sulu, bringing with him memorable stories and truths about the island feared by many as a dangerous place to go.

This film, along with six other short films from Mindanao, will have its World Premiere on December 6, 7 p.m. at Indie Sine, Robinson’s Galleria, Ortigas Center in Pasig City. A Mindanao Examiner Production. Directed by Al Jacinto

Nov 25 2007

League Thumbs Down Splitting Of Sulu In South RP

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 25, 2007) — The League of Municipalities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has flatly rejected a proposal to divide Sulu into two provinces.

Sulu’s Second District Representative Munir Arbison, who is on his third and last term, wanted the province divided.

Arbison made the proposal shortly after his reelection in May and he is said to be aspiring to run as governor of the new province in the 2010 national elections.

But majority of Sulu’s 18 municipal mayors were opposed to the division of the province, saying, “the proposal would only cause dissension and disunity among the locals and will only be a stumbling block to peace, progress and prosperity.”

Arbison previously said that he has the support of the mayors.

But the League of Municipalities in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, passed a resolution signed by 15 mayors withdrawing their support to the proposed division of the province.

The resolution said the mayors were misled into believing that splitting Sulu into two provinces will bring additional funding support and progress.

“The division of the province of Sulu would adversely affect the territory of the province of Sulu and will reduce the capacity of the province to survive as a political unit,” noted the resolution.

“The present administration of the province of Sulu under the able and competent leadership of the Honorable Gov. Abdusakur Tan is creating along an effective governance of the province and have induced at this early a positive change towards the development of the province.”

The League of Municipalities in Sulu, headed by Mayor Isnaji Alvarez of the town of Indanan, also sent copies of the resolution to the Sulu Provincial Board, ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and the ARMM Legislative Assembly.

A copy would also be sent to President Gloria Arroyo and House Speaker Jose de Venecia III and Senate President Manny Villar.

The others who signed the resolution were Mayor Munib Estino, of Panglima Estino and also the Secretary-General, of the local League of Municipalities; Mayor Kabir Hayudini of Patikul; Mayor Nedra Burahan of Panglima Tahil; Mayor Sitti Raya Tulawie of Talipao; and Mayor Najib Maldisa of Maimbung.

Mayor Hussin Amin of Jolo; Mayor Gafur Ab­durajak of Panamao; Mayor Arthur Muksan, of Siasi; Mayor Nurmina Burahan of Pata; Mayor Abdusali Asmadun of Lugus; Mayor Ahmad Nano of Pangu­taran; Mayor Rizal Ting­kahan of Parang; Mayor Wahid Sahidulla of Ban­guingui; and Mayor Hatta Berto of Pandami also signed the resolution.

The three remaining mayors who did not sign the resolution were Nasser Daud of Tapul; Mayor Alrazmie Halun of Kalingalang Caluang and Mayor Ahmad Omar of Luuk, known supporters of Arbison.

Sulu has an area of 1,600 square kilometers and is the 15th largest island in the Philippine Archipelago, in terms of area. Sulu is classified as a first-class province in terms of income.

(Mindanao Examiner)

Nov 11 2007

Sulu, Nagpasalamat Sa Saudi

SULU (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 11, 2007) – Ipinatawag kahapon ni Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan ang mga opisyal nito upang pagusapan ang project proposals na isusumite nito sa Saudi Arabia matapos na mangako itong magbubuhos ng tulong sa lalawigan.

Natuwa naman ang maraming mga alkalde ng Sulu at Provincial Board sa naging matagumpay ng pakikipagusap ni Tan sa mga opisyal ng Saudi Embassy ng ito ay anyayahan doon nuong nakaraang lingo.

Kahapon ay agad naman bumalik si Tan sa Sulu upang paghandaan ang pagpasok ng tulong ng Saudi sa lalawigan.

“Malaki ang pasasalamat naming sa Saudi Arabia dahil sa pangakong tulong para sa Sulu at siguradong maraming mga mamamayan ang makikinabang sa mabuting hangarin ng Saudi,” ani Tan sa Mindanao Examiner.

Magbubuhos umano ng malaking tulong ang Saudi Arabia sa upang suportahan ang peace and development efforts sa lalawigan ng Sulu, ayon pa sa Gobernador.

Mismong si Saudi Ambassador Mohammed Ameen Wali ang nangakong tutulong at balak naman imbitahin. «Saudi is very supportive of our peace and development efforts and we are now preparing several project proposals that will help alleviate the situation of the poor in Sulu.»

“The support of Saudi Arabia (to Sulu) will surely bring peace and development and livelihood worthy of human dignity. We are launching our own jihad towards the attainment of peace and unity. Other forms of jihad, particularly violent jihad, is primitive,» ani Tan.

Noon ay lumagda rin ang Saudi Arabia ng US$20 million loan agreement para sa development ng Mindanao roads project. Bahagi ito ng US$100 million loan agreement financing was sourced from the US$100 sa ilalim ng Saudi Fund for Development (SDF). (Mindanao Examiner)

Nov 04 2007

Kano, Na-Praning Sa Sunog

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 04, 2007) – Isang sasakyan umano ng mga sudnalong Kano ang nasunog sa lalawigan ng Sulu matapos na mag-overheat ang makina nito, ayon sa ilang military sources dito.

Ang masakit pa umano ay inabandona ng mga sundalong Kano ang sasakyan ng ito’y mag-apoy nuiong kamakalawa at mabuti na lamang at hindi ito sumabog. Naganap ito kamakalawa.

Hindi agad mabatid ang dahilan ng insidente at ayaw rin magsalita ang mga opisyal ukol sa naganap.

Daan-daang mga sundalong Kano ang nasa Sulu at tumutulong sa lokal na militar sa pagsasanay ng mga tropa sa ibat-ibang training. (Mindanao Examiner)

Nov 04 2007

South RP Fire Leaves 7,000 People Homeless

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 04, 2007) – Two people had died and thousands were left homeless after a fire swept through several neighborhoods in an island-town off Sulu province in southern Philippines, officials said on Sunday.

Officials said dozens were hurt in the fire that left more than 7,000 people homeless late Saturday afternoon in South Laud village in Siasi town.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. But police said many of the houses in the village were made of lumber and strong winds helped fan the fire.

“More than 7,000 people were without homes. (Sulu) Governor, Sakur Tan has ordered a massive relief operation on the island to help the victims. We are doing our best to immediately help as many people as we can,” Khalil Hajibin, a member of the Sulu Provincial Council, who led the relief operation, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Sulu police chief, Superintendent Ahiron Ajirim, said they are still investigating the cause of the fire. “We are awaiting reports and so far at least two people – a couple – died from the fire,” he said in a separate interview.

He said the island had no fire engines and that soldiers and policemen helped villagers fight the blaze. Five policemen, he said, also lost their houses from the fire.

Other reports said the fire started from a store selling fuel, but it was unclear how it began.

It was the second fire in two months in Sulu province. Thousands were also left without homes after a fire broke out in the village of Asturias in Jolo town in September. (Mindanao Examiner)

Oct 29 2007

US Army Finally Names Dead Soldier In Southern Philippines

Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Curreri, 27, died in an accidental drowning incident at Lake Seit in Panamao town in Sulu province on Oct. 26, 2007. (Army Photo/Mindanao Examiner)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2007) – The US Army Special Operations Command has finally released Tuesday the identity of an American soldier who died in the southern Filipino province of Sulu.

It said Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Curreri, 27, died in an accidental drowning incident at Lake Seit in Panamo town on October 26. He was a Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha team communications sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Lewis in Washington.

Curreri, a native of Maryland, volunteered for military service and entered the Army in July 2004 as an infantryman. He volunteered for and completed U.S. Army Airborne training, and then volunteered for Special Forces training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

He was assigned to the 1st SFG (A) at Fort Lewis in 2006.

Hundreds of US soldiers under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines are deployed in Sulu province and training local soldiers in various military tactics.

In February, a US Marine, Cpl. Timothy Lewis, suffered a heat stroke and eventually died from cardiac arrest in Sulu. It was the first reported death of a US soldier participating in this year’s joint military drill.

Lewis was part of a contingent from the Okinawa-based 3rd Marine Expeditionary Forces.

In February 2002, a US MH-47 Chinook helicopter with eight American crew and two soldiers on board crashed during a night flight in Bohol Strait in central Philippines. There were no survivors. The American troops were taking part in a joint military training with Filipino soldiers.

The helicopter was on a routine transit from the southern island of Basilan to the island of Mactan where the U.S. maintains a logistics air base.

In October of the same year, a US soldier was also killed after an Abu Sayyaf bomb exploded on a roadside restaurant outside a Philippine Army base in Malagutay village in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner)

Oct 27 2007

US Anti-Terror Soldier Dies In Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 28, 2007) – A US soldier training Filipino troops in anti-terrorism warfare was found dead after diving in a lake in the southern province of Sulu.

The soldier, whose identity was not made public, was missing since Friday after he and several other soldiers went diving in Seit Lake in Panamao town. His body was found the next day after a massive search in the lake by US and Filipino soldiers.

US military officials did not give any statement and ignored calls from journalists.

Police has confirmed the death of the US soldier, but officials did not release the name of the victim.

The cause of the death remains unclear and it was unknown whether the soldier drowned or had a heart attack or was attacked by rebels.

Hundreds of US soldiers under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines are deployed in Sulu province and training local soldiers in various military tactics.

In February, a US Marine, Cpl. Timothy Lewis, suffered a heat stroke and eventually died from cardiac arrest in Sulu. It was the first reported death of a US soldier participating in this year’s joint military drill.

Lewis was part of a contingent from the Okinawa-based 3rd Marine Expeditionary Forces.

In February 2002, a US MH-47 Chinook helicopter with eight American crew and two soldiers on board crashed during a night flight in Bohol Strait in central Philippines. There were no survivors. The American troops were taking part in a joint military training with Filipino soldiers.

The helicopter was on a routine transit from the southern island of Basilan to the island of Mactan where the U.S. maintains a logistics air base.

In October of the same year, a US soldier was also killed after an Abu Sayyaf bomb exploded on a roadside restaurant outside a Philippine Army base in Malagutay village in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner)

Oct 12 2007

Muslims End Ramadan, Starts Joyous Eid Al-Fitr; Christians Celebrate Hermosa Festival In Southern Philippines





End of the fasting month of Ramadan signals the start Friday Oct. 12, 2007 of the festive Eid Al-Fitr in Sulu province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct.12, 2007) – Muslims in the southern Philippines on Friday celebrated the Eid Al-Fitr that marked the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Some 10,000 Muslims, led by Gov. Sakur Tan, converged in front of the Sulu provincial capitol in Patikul town where they performed the Eid prayer.

«This is a celebration of faith, a renewal of the Muslim faith and the time to help the less fortunate or the poor. Muslims are celebrating the Eid all over the world and we, in Sulu celebrate the blessings of God and that is peace and prosperity,» Tan told the Mindanao Examiner.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a strict fast and participate in pious activities such as charitable giving and peace-making. And at the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world observe a joyous three-day celebration called Eid Al-Fitr of the Festival of Fast-Breaking.

Eid Al-Fitr is a time to give in charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy.

«The Eid (celebration) brings us, our family together. We eat and celebrate and pray together and thank Allah for all the blessings in life. It is also the time to help the poor,» one worshiper, Ibrahim Usman, said in a separate interview.

In Zamboanga City, Christians also celebrated the Hermosa Festival in honor of the century-old statue Virgin Mary, called Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza, brought there by the Spanish colonizers and believed by many locals to be miraculous.

The festival featured week-long novena masses, cultural shows, agricultural fairs, art, photo and flower garden exhibits, torch parades, fireworks, and carnivals. It all ended with a solemn procession attended by thousands of Catholics and a mass at the Fort Pilar, where the statue of the Virgin Mary is erected. (Mindanao Examiner)

Oct 09 2007

Sulu Province – The Land Of Treasures

A diver examines his scuba gear at Ramos beach in Panglima Tahil town in Sulu province in southern Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Sulu Provincial Tourism Council)

SULU, Philippines — Far-flung Sulu is the southernmost part of the Philippines, lying between the Sulu Sea on the north and the Celebes Sea on the south. With fishing as its most important industry, it is classified as a First Class Province in terms of income.

The glorious Sulu Sea is dotted with coral reefs, such as the pearl farm at Marungas Island, and provides some of the world’s best dive spots. Tubbataha Reef is its best known site, a 33,200-hectare underwater splendor drawing divers from all over the world with its marvelous marine wilderness and special ecosystem.

Because of its fabulous beauty, the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park was honored by UNESCO in December 1993 as the first natural site in the Philippines to be inscribed in the prestigious World Heritage List.

It is the best known site in the Sulu Sea, drawing divers from all over the world with its underwater splendor and the rich marine life that abounds in the reef. Snappers, sweet-lips, groupers, angel fish, and morays can be found amid huge fan corals and sponges.

Large schools of barracudas, jacks, rainbow runners, and surgeons pass by while tunas race about.

The Sulu provincial capital is Jolo town. Its walled city is the smallest in the world, with its historic brick walls that lay proof to the city’s historic past.

Another attraction of the city is the Provincial Capitol with its moorish-inspired architectural design.

The province nurtures a harmonious coexistence of the two most dominant religions in the Philippines, Islam and Catholicism. There are beautiful Muslim mosques situated in each village, most notable being the majestic Tulay Mosque which now towers the Sulu skyline.

The existing churches of Christian faith in the province are the Jolo Parish Church, Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel, and Jolo Evangelical Church.

Geography

Sulu consists of over 400 scattered and almost isolated islands, stretching from the tip of Zamboanga southwestward towards Borneo.

It forms one of the three connections of the Philippines with Sabah. Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan is planning to convert some of these islands into world-class resorts because of their pristine and white sand beaches to help promote tourism.

Climate

Sulu is outside of the typhoon belt. Its climate is warm. Humidity is generally moist, but precipitation is constant throughout the year. February is considered the coldest month while May to August are the hottest, with mean relative humidity of 86%, one of the hottest in the country.

January to April is considered the dry period, with a monthly average of 7 to 9 inches of rainfall. The mean annual temperature is 26 degrees centigrade and the maximum is 27 degrees centigrade.

Language and Dialect

The principal dialect of the natives of Sulu is Tausug. The rest speak Samal and other dialects such as Visayan, Chavacano and Tagalog. English is widely spoken in Sulu.

Major Industries

While there is an absence of huge mineral deposits, Sulu nevertheless abounds in marine and timber resources and is believed rich in fossil fuel. Lying outside the typhoon belt, it is blessed with a year-round bounty from both land and sea.

Due to the character of the soil and climate, the province of Sulu grows a greater variety of products than any other part of the country. In addition to all the crops of the islands, which are abaca, coconut, and fruits like oranges, lanzones, and jacks, other fruits that do not grow in the northern islands are harvested here, such as the mangosteen berries and durian.

In September, some six tons of mangosteen and durian were shipped out to supermarkets in Manila and the fruits were completely sold out in hours. The shipment, Sulu Gov. Tan says, is part of the Fruits for Hope program. The international non-government organization, the Asia-American Initiative and Filipino Senator Richard Gordon also helped in the Fruit for Hope program.

Fishing is the most important industry. Sea turtles and fish of all kinds are caught. Otherwise the people engage in the industries of boat building, mat weaving, coffee processing, and fruit preservation (durian and mangosteen).

Trepang and pearls are extensively gathered in Sulu. Trepang, also called bêche-de-mer, is a sea cucumber of the genus Holothuria of the southern Pacific and Indian oceans, and is often dried or smoked for use as an ingredient in soup, especially in China and Indonesia. (Department of Tourism/Sulu Provincial Tourism Council)

Oct 06 2007

Photo: Sulu Dive Site

A diver inspects his scuba gear in the crystal clear water of Sulu province in southern Philippines. Governor Sakur Tan says the provincial government is promoting Sulu as one of southern Philippines tourism destination because of its pristine beaches and resorts. (Sulu Provincial Tourism Council)

Sep 29 2007

Sweldo Ng Guro Sa Sulu, Problemang Muli


Si Sulu Gob. Sakur Tan habang pinakikinggan ang mga hinaing ng mga guro sa Sulu. Dumulog sa gobernador ang halos 100 mga guro upang ipabatid ang kanilang mga hinaing ukol sa ibat-ibang problema. (Photo contributed by Ahmad Fabi)

SULU – Nagbabantang mag-aklas ang mga guro mula sa mga government schools upang i-protesta ang umano’y pagkakaantala at kawalan ng mga sahod nito sa mga nakalipas na buwan mula sa Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Inireklamo rin ng mga guro ang diumano’y kawalan ng aksyon ni Sulu School District head na si Delfin Unga ukol kanilang hinaing.

Kamakailan lamang ay nakipagpulong ang halos 100 guro kay Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan upang idulog ang kanilang mga problema. Dito ay inisa-isa ng mga guro ang kanilang hinaing – mula sa naantalang sahod ng mga regular teachers hanggang sa kawalan ng sweldo ng mga temporary teachers sa buong lalawigan.

Maging ang mga contributions ng mga ito sa Government Service Insurance System o GSIS ay hindi rin umano matagpuan o kaya ay hindi nai-remit sa pamahalaan. Dumaraan kasi ang lahat ng mga ito sa ARMM kung kaya’t hirap ang mga guro na ito’y reklamo.

Tinatayang mahigit sa 5,000 ang apektado nitong problema. Nangako naman si Tan na idudulog ang problema sa Department of Budget and Management at sa ARMM at Pangulong Gloria Arroyo ang mabigat na pasanin ng mga guro sa Sulu.

Ngunit maging si ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan ay hindi rin mahagilap sa opisina nito sa Cotabato City dahil ni anino ay hindi umano makita sa kanyang tanggapan. Palagi umano itong nasa kanyang bahay sa Shariff Kabunsuan at dismayado na rin ang mga empleyado ng ARMM.

Maging sa mga lalawigan na sakop ng ARMM ay hindi riin mabisita ni Ampatuan. Tagilid umano ang katayuan nito kung muling tatakbo sa susunod na taon sa halalan sa ARMM.

Pinaghahandaan na umano ng mga guro ang kanilang demonstrasyon na isasagawa sa tuwing matatapos ang klase o kaya ay sa tuwing Sabado at Linggo. Suportado naman ito ng mga mga Parents-Teachers Association at mgaing ng mga estudyante. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sep 28 2007

NHA namahagi ng certificates sa Sulu

Ipinapakita ni Sitti Radzma Jadjuli ang kanyang certificate of payment mula sa National Housing Authority bilang katunayan na siya ang nagmamay-ari ng kapirasong lupain sa bayan ng Indanan sa Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Sept) – Halos 200 pamilya ang nabigyan ng kanilang mga certificates mula sa National Housing Authority matapos na mabayaraan ang mga lupaing kinatitirikan ng kanilang mga bahay sa bayan ng Indanan nitong lalawigan.

Hindi naman maitago ng mga pamilya ang kanilang kagalakan at pasasalamat sa NHA at pamahalaan. Kamakailan ay ginanap ang awarding ng mga certificates sa Indanan na kung saan ay pinanguhanan nina Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan at alkalde ng bayan na si Alvarez Isnaji.

Hinimok naman ni Tan ang mga may-ari ng lupa na lalong magsumikap para sa kinabukasan ng kanilang pamilya. Doon ay sinabi rin ng gobernador ang mga magagandang plano nito sa lalawigan upang maisulong ang patuloy na pag-unlad ng Sulu.

Kasama nina Tan at Isnaji ay mga ibat-ibang opisyal ng naturang bayan at lalawigan, gayun si Engr. Al-Khwarizmi Indanan, ang district manager ng NHA sa Basilan, Sulu at Tawi-Tawi.

Kabilang sa mga opisyal ay sina Hussin Ahajan, ang bise-alkalde ng Indanan, Abdullah Hayudini, isa sa mga Barangay chairman sa nasabing bayan; Abdulpatta Saddarani, mula sa tanggapan ni Rep. Yusop Jikiri; at Hector Buclao, miyembro ng Sanguniang Panlalawigan.

“Nagpapasalamat talaga ako sa lahat ng mga opisyal ay nabigyan na rin kami ng certificate na magpapatunay na kami ay may-ari ng lupain. Malaking tulong ito sa kinabukasan ng mga bata,” ani pa ni Sitti Radzma Jadjuli, isa sa mga nabigyan ng certificate. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sep 27 2007

US, RP Move Supplies, Infra Equipment In Sulu




A US convoy transporting supplies and equipment for infrastructure passes Thursday 27 Sept, 2007 through a village in Indanan town in Sulu province in southern Philippines. Washington has poured $3.7 million in development projects in Sulu to help in Manila’s peace efforts. Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said the money will be used for the repair of the Jolo airport and the putting up of a potable water system in the province. Last month, the US signed a $190 million grant aid for various infrastructure projects in Mindanao island. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Sept) – US and Filipino soldiers deployed in Sulu have began moving supplies and equipment for infrastructure projects on Thursday as more countries pledged to help develop the southern Philippine province.

The soldiers were spotted passing in the town of Indanan in several trucks and jeeps transporting equipment to the delight of the locals. “We have projects to do here…for the people,” one Filipino soldier yelled as their truck headed to Indanan.

Hundreds of US troops are stationed in Sulu and helping Filipino soldiers carry out humanitarian missions on the request of the Philippine government. The US is also training local troops in anti-terrorism warfare.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said some countries, including Syria, have expressed to help in peace and development projects in the province.

“We welcome all assistance and aid from donor countries and international nongovernmental organizations to promote peace and development in the region,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Tan did not say what other countries have pledged to help Sulu, but on Monday the United States and Britain unveiled a huge package of development projects in the province in an effort to help Manila bring peace and progress in the region.

Ambassadors Kristie Kenney, of the United States, and Peter Beckingham, of the British Embassy, arrived in Jolo town and announced a $3 million funding for the repair of the local airport and the installation of a $700,000 potable water system in Sulu.

Tan said the US and British projects will help a lot of people in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

It was on top of the $190 million development and economic growth agreement the US signed last week to help fund other projects in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sep 24 2007

Fire Leaves Thousands Homeless In Southern RP


The fire in Sulu’s Jolo town that left thousands of people without homes Monday Sept. 24, 2007. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)
SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Sept) – Thousands of people were left homeless after a fire late Monday swept through a neighborhood in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.There were no immediate reports of injuries or casualties and victims had blamed the fire department for the conflagration. They said the fire engines had no water and residents doused their houses with dirty water taken from canals and creeks.“Now, we don’t know where to stay for the night. Our house is burned and we have nothing left,” said Ibrahim Abubakre, a fisherman.Authorities were investigating the cause of the conflagration, but one woman said the fire started from a wooden house where an oil lamp fell to the floor. “That’s where it all started,” she said.The fire ate up at least two blocks in downtown Jolo, said a man, Nasser Unting.“My conservative estimate is that more than 500 houses are burned and thousands are without homes and that’s for sure,” he said, pointing to the direction where houses were burning.

“You look at the sky, it’s red, and that’s fire below. You can hear people screaming and crying and cursing and you can’t blame them,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sep 24 2007

US, Britain Pour Development Aid In Southern RP


Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan with US and British Ambassadors Kristie Kenney and Peter Beckingham on Monday Sept. 24, 2007 in Patikul town in Sulu province in southern RP. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Sept) – US and British officials on Monday unveiled a huge package of development projects in Sulu province in an effort to help Manila bring peace and progress in the southern region.

Ambassadors Kristie Kenney, of the United States, and Peter Beckingham, of the British Embassy, arrived WITH Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon in Jolo town where Gov. Sakur Tan led local officials in welcoming the delegation.

Tan said the US and British projects will help a lot of people in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Among the projects are the rehabilitation of the Jolo airport by the US worth $3 million and $700,000 potable water system funded by the British government under the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) program.

«The $3 million will be used to rebuilt and renovate the Jolo airport so people here can their fabulous products out to market in Manila and the rest of the world,» Kenney told reporters.

It was in addition to the $190 million development and economic growth agreement the US recently signed to help fund other projects in Mindanao. «The $190 million will be spreading it evenly throughout various parts of Mindanao. The airport in Jolo and the water system, which costs $700,000, are separate projects,» she said.

The potable water system, on the other hand, will benefit hundreds of people in four villages — Siolakan, Bakud, Latung, and SibakLatud – in Sulu’s Siasi town, where AMORE also set up the communities’ first access to electricity using solar power technology in 2004.

The project consist of an intake structure, four impounding reservoirs confined with 7,335 meters pipeline and with 21 tap stands, said Tetchie Capellan, AMORE’s chief of party.

«I am confident that the completion of the potable water system project, the health, sanitation, and economic living conditions of the 200 marginalized households spread across the four villages will be addressed,» Capellan said.

The AMORE is an alliance of the United States Agency for International Development, the Philippines’ Department of Energy, Mirant Philippines Foundation Inc., the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Winrock International.

Bekingham described the province as vibrant and tremendous. «Everybody is very friendly and I am delighted to be here and see the projects that we are doing here,» he said.

He said Britain is committed to increasing expenditure on water related projects, ensuring universal access to safe water and sanitation. The British government, he said, has already supported projects in developing countries, like in the Philippines, a community-based program integrating water, sanitation and hygiene education.

Kenney and Beckingham also handed over ten units of computers to the Sulu National High School. The British government provided reference materials while the USAID helped to install the new computers and train teachers on their use for classroom instruction.

They also visited the Jolo Market Road which had been upgraded recently from an earthen causeway to a concrete-paved boulevard by USAID. Tan said the improved road now provides a more efficient means of moving products and people from Jolo port to the market area.

The road has already become an evening attraction for locals, many of whom now regularly take walks to watch the sunset and panoramic view of the Sulu Sea.

Tan said the ambassadors also handed over aquaculture production materials to former Muslim rebels now engaged in lobster and abalone farming. «Peace and development in the province of Sulu has always been the ultimate goal of my administration and the people of this historical archipelago.»

«Seeing it flourish again into agricultural and marine-based economic potentate in the region amidst challenges is the glory we all relentlessly working for early realization,» he told Kenney and Beckingham.

Esperon said the peace and order condition in Sulu has improved a lot the past months and is giving confidence to foreign countries to take a second look into the province’s rich natural resources. «Sulu is very peaceful and we have the US and British ambassadors here pouring a lot of development projects. It is a very good sign that progress,» he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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