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Missing our SS Friday edition, though unintentional turned out perfectly timed after all. It was another hectic day for SS yesterday, a Saturday. It was, however made lighter there became no need for keyboard pounding, for yesterday’s printed article was ground late afternoon of Friday yet, way past the latest deadline for submission hour of 4 pm or so for articles.

And being a weekend there was also no need for airing “ EL Canionaso,” allowing lee way to SS in having time for bonding with the Western Eagle members at the Navy Beach in Calarian.

In the evening, SS also had much time to meet with former Mayor, now Vice Mayor of Isabela City, Cherrylyn Akbar, P/Sr. Sup Alan Nazaro, and former Mayor of a Sulu town, Jikiri and company for a fruitful casual talk on Eagleism.

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Police Regional Office-Zamboanga Peninsula Director Billy Beltran leaves no stone unturned in the setting up of security measures as he laid down plans to ensure the solemn and peaceful observance of the Holy Week in Zamboanga Peninsula (Western Mindanao), setting in to motion a manpower of some 6,000 personnel.

Beltran said the focus of the security plan are all places of possible convergence and along the highways, too, anticipating Catholic devotees to flock in places of worship, plus  the doubling of people traveling along the highways as they go on vacation to observe the Holy Week together with their families.

Beltran said they will set up public assistance centers and checkpoints along the highways to be able to respond to the needs of the travelers who might encounter problem while traveling. Policemen will be also deployed in bus terminals and ports all over the region. Beltran’s office covers the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur and the cities of Isabela and Zamboanga.

Beltran added, police forces will be strengthened in areas where threat groups exist such as in the province of Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay. On Thursday, joint police and military forces have neutralized following a firefight that killed an Abdusalam kidnap-for-ransom-group (KFRG) member in the village of Salipyasin, Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Beltran called on public assistance in providing timely and vital information on the presence of people acting suspiciously in their community to ensure the peaceful observance of the Lenten season.

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Communist rebels appear sincere in releasing government captives as they are studying options to safely release what they call prisoners of war (POWs), referring to three soldiers and a policeman ,without endangering their lives and that of their rebel captors in the absence of a military cessation of offensives against the rebels.

This comes, he claimed amid refusal of the armed forces to suspend military operations in areas where the captives are being held, according to communist party founder Jose Ma. Sison.

Sison, acknowledged as founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said “There are precedents for the release of POWs to a domestic third party,” adding Duterte had acted as third party several times when he was still a mayor of Davao City.

Aside from the release of captives, Mr. Duterte had also demanded a ceasefire and a stop to rebel tax collection as his conditions to resume formal peace negotiations with the rebels, which were not heeded and rightly swayed Duterte to dissuade from declaring a truce..

Sison blamed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza and armed forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año for the delay of the release of the captive soldiers and policeman.

“They do not respect President Duterte’s desire to have these POWs freed by the NPA,” he added.

Lorenzana and Año, he said, continue to push for an all-out war on the rebels “without considering the safety and orderly release of their own men.”

Owwws… That’s unbelievable. They are the ones who refused to formally forge a no-nonsense bilateral ceasefire agreement with government as yet.

Sison said he believed that the military had not yet been apprised of results of negotiations in the Netherlands between rebel and government representatives which had led to an agreement to declare a unilateral ceasefire.

It seems that they suffer from a disconnect in policy and action regarding confidence building measures in the peace negotiations,” he said.

“Ceasefire and disconnect?” That’s double-speak. There is no such elephant. “And Sison continued, saying the NDFP had already asked the government peace panel to work for the suspension of military operations to pave the way for the captives’ release.

Yes, they did, but for their part, there has been no such suspension.

In Pilipino, it is said, “Ano siya, sinusuerte?) (What is he, lucky guy?)

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Malacañang has assured Beijing of Manila’s commitment to enhance bilateral ties after the latter raised concern over Pres. Duterte’s order for the military to “occupy” islands in the South China Sea.

“The President’s position on the matter is clear and has nothing to do with politics. His instructions cover only existing Philippine facilities and Philippine territory,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Saturday.

Abella highlighted the importance of protecting national security, while giving the assurance.

Part of China’s concern included continued commitment to defend its “territorial sovereignty and maritime interests” in the disputed sea.

And that, actually includes the islands that the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) ceded to our country. That concern is preposterous - tall order, for it is noted China has been claiming 90 percent or almost the whole part of the South China Sea, which to us is the West Philippine Sea, citing its excessive nine-dash line of its so-called “Chinese Ancient map.” - ICA had debunked.

Duterte’s order to the military is to “put structures and the Philippine flag” on its islands and reefs, and to repair the runway on Pag-asa or Thitu Island, the second largest of the Spratly island chain with an area of about 91 acres.

“What’s ours now, at least let’s get them and make a strong point there that it is ours,” he said, shortly after receiving a security briefing at Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

China’s avowed stand of  continued commitment to defend its “territorial sovereignty and maritime interests” may probably mean they are set to drive away Philippine manpower and assets through violence.

Bingo! That will be the time when our county could invoke the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty.

Get the SS point, folks, on the matter that we had labored to lay down in previous occasions? We are the aggrieved, the first moved must be ours, not America’s.

Unlike his predecessor Abnoy Aquino, wo made none, Duterte is making his.

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Another conflict rocks the Pres. Duterte Cabinet after a dismissed Malacañang executive claimed top agricultural officials are pretending there is a rice shortage to pave the way for a government-to-government (G2G) importation that would be detrimental to Filipino farmers.

Dismissed undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Valdez of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OCS) accused Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and NFA Administrator Jason Aquino of the supposed simulated rice shortage so they could push through with the G2G deal.

She also charged Piñol for meddling on the functions and affairs of the OCS Secretary of Leoncio Evasco.

Duterte sacked Valdez last Wednesday for overturning Aquino’s denial of rice importation through private channels. But Valdez claimed she was just implementing a decision of the NFA Council when she overturned

Aquino’s decision not to allow the private importation of rice under the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme.

In the meantime, it was reported, Sec. Evasco stands by his former undersecretary Valdez. Evasco, who chairs the NFA Council (NFAC), has also allowed the importation of rice by private traders up to June this year despite the harvest season.

Last Monday, Evasco issued a new memorandum circular extending the deadline for the importation of rice by traders from March 31 to June 30. He signed the memo two days before Duterte fired Valdez for supposedly pushing for rice importation amid the ongoing harvest.

Whew..! Do wee see next the neck of Evasco on the chopping?

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The United States warned Friday it is ready to hit Syria again after its 59-Tomahawk cruise missiles strike, which US Ambassador Nikki Haley announced at an emergency session of the UN Security Council.

The US strikes were launched to punish an alleged chemical weapons attack by Bashar al-Assad’s regime that infuriated Moscow and fueled calls for a push to end the six-year war.

However, opposition and rebel fighters, who have for years urged more direct US military action in support of their uprising, hailed the strike and called for more.

Meanwhile, North Korea contrastingly claimed American use of nuclear missiles against Syria is justification for their own test-firing of nuclear missiles. (By Jimmy Cabato)

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