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Country Reports
PHILIPPINES, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
 
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PHILIPPINES

Key developments since May 2000: The Mine Ban Treaty entered into force for the Philippines on 1 August 2000. Increased hostilities resulted in increased landmine use by three rebel groups: the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the New People’s Army, and the Abu Sayyaf Group. The Armed Forces of the Philippines identified 40 landmine incidents in 2000, resulting in 64 casualties, including 19 civilians. Although the Philippines previously destroyed all of its Claymore mines, it is now pursuing the possibility of acquiring new Claymore mines.

Mine Ban Policy

The Philippines signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 and ratified it on 15 February 2000. The treaty entered into force on 1 August 2000. It is expected that domestic implementation legislation will be drafted after the May 2001 elections. The draft will likely build on Senate bill no. 52, introduced by Senator Juan Flavier on 20 June 1998, which prohibits the use, manufacture, acquisition, sale, and deployment of landmines and prescribes penalties in cases of violation. A Foreign Affairs Department official has suggested that the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) should be involved in drafting the legislation.[1]

The Philippines participated in the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2000. It attended the meetings of the Standing Committees in December 2000 and May 2001. It voted in favor of the November 2000 UN General Assembly resolution in support of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it had in previous years.

The Philippines submitted a very brief Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 transparency report to the United Nations on 12 September 2000, well in advance of the due date of 28 January 2001. However, the report was essentially only four sentences long, and did not meet all of the reporting requirements detailed in Article 7. A more complete, fully compliant report had not been submitted as of July 2001.

On 21 February 2001, the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Canadian Embassy in Manila sponsored a forum, “Measured Steps: the Global Movement to Ban Landmines.”[2] Mr. Robert Ferrer from the Department of Foreign Affairs participated in the forum. He acknowledged that the Article 7 report did not cover landmine use by the armed opposition groups and did not identify the extent of mined areas. Mr. Ferrer stressed that much is still to be done to implement the treaty.[3]

The Philippines is a party to Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Conventional Weapons. It attended the Second Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in December 2000. Apparently, the Philippines submitted its annual report as required by Amended Protocol II Article 13.[4]

Use

The September 2000 Article 7 report states, “The Philippine Government has an existing policy against the use of anti-personnel mines.”[5] There is no evidence that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have used antipersonnel mines in the fighting against rebel groups in 2000 or 2001.

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the governments of the Philippines and the United States permits their armed forces to conduct joint military exercises. There is no evidence that U.S. forces have used antipersonnel mines during those exercises. A junior officer who was part of one joint military exercise told Landmine Monitor that U.S. troops did not bring in antipersonnel mines for training purposes.[6]

At least three rebel groups have used mines: the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the Abu Sayyaf Group. Heightened hostilities between the government and the rebel groups in 2000 under former President Joseph Estrada’s “all out war policy” were accompanied by an increase in mine use by the rebels. The Armed Forces of the Philippines identified 40 landmine incidents from January to December 2000 where landmines were found or exploded.[7] Most of incidents that caused casualties among military and civilians occurred between January and July 2000.[8]

Throughout the period, the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas (RPM-P) and its armed wing the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Bongcayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) continued to observe their pledge not to use mines. A peace agreement with the government, signed on 6 December 2000, did not specifically address landmines. A new rebel group emerged, the Armadong Partisano ng Paggawa (APP), but it is not known to have used landmines.

MILF

In 2000 the government went on a full-scale offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, eventually capturing all its major strongholds. The MILF was reported to increase its use of landmines.[9] The AFP attributed ten landmine incidents to the MILF in 2000. The MILF have been using improvised antipersonnel and antitank mines, as well as Claymore-type mines.

On 9 March 2001, two soldiers were seriously wounded when they stepped on a landmine allegedly planted by MILF rebels in Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao. Col. Fredesvindo Covarrubias of the military Southern Command said the MILF rebels continued to plant landmines in many areas of Maguindanao, a stronghold of the MILF in central Mindanao.[10] On 3 April 2001 it was reported that government troops disarmed three landmines allegedly planted by MILF on a dirt road leading to a military outpost in central Mindanao.[11]

Attorney Lanang Ali, Legal Counsel of the MILF, responded to the allegations of MILF’s use of landmines.[12] According to Ali, the incidents in Barangay Iginampong and Maitumaig (the theater of heaviest fighting) were caused by unexploded bombs dropped by the AFP and not landmines planted by MILF forces. Ali called for a fact-finding team to investigate the incidents “to have a fair and just appreciation of the reports.”[13] In March 2000 the MILF signed the “Geneva Call,” pledging not to use antipersonnel mines.

On 24 March 2001, the MILF agreed to resume the stalled peace talks with the Aroyo Government. The MILF and the government signed an agreement establishing the suspension of military operations and offensive actions and providing relief and rehabilitation of evacuees.[14]

NPA

The AFP attributed three landmine incidents to the NPA in 2000. In one incident on 27 June 2000, 13 soldiers died; in another on 30 September 2000, four soldiers and five civilians were killed and nine wounded in an ambush when their jeep hit a landmine. The military declared that they intended to file charges against the NPA with the Commission on Human Rights as the incidents involved civilians.[15]

In a letter to Landmine Monitor, Ka Julian of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) insisted that the NPA (the armed wing of the CPP) only uses command detonated antivehicle mines, which are not prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty.[16] He stated that all NPA mines are improvised mines: “We do not stockpile these landmines. Our production method is very crude, manual and highly decentralized. Our supply of explosives and other materials is very limited and irregular.” He also claimed, “Some of our units have confiscated Claymore mines from the reactionary [government] troops.” He stated the support of the CPP/NPA for the goal of a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel mines, but said a total ban is impossible without the accession of states such as the United States, Russia, and China.

Abu Sayyaf

The government decided to shift to a military option against the Abu Sayyaf Group, which is best known for its kidnappings, including foreign nationals. Clashes occur, particularly on the island of Jolo, Sulu. In August 2000, Philippine military and police intelligence officials estimated that Abu Sayyaf had planted at least 3,000 homemade landmines at their camps in Talipao where hostages were being kept.[17] The AFP found nine improvised antipersonnel mines after a brief firefight with Abu Sayyaf on 15 November 2000. The Abu Sayyaf has been using primarily improvised landmines in its operations, but is also believed to have laid foreign-made mines. According to the AFP, on 26 March, five foreign antipersonnel mines, marked “Super Dyne Explosive IDL E Industry LTD Rourkela 25 MM by 12.5 Drums” were found.[18]

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

In its Article 7 report, the Philippines declared, “The Armed Forces of the Philippines no longer possesses anti-personnel mines in its inventory. On 18 July 1998, the Armed Forces of the Philippines disposed of its entire anti-personnel mines inventory which was composed of 2,460 Claymore mines. Since 18 July 1998, no anti-personnel mines have been obtained, procured or manufactured by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”[19]

One AFP soldier told Landmine Monitor that there are still some Claymore mines in the possession of government troops. Claymore mine is a generic term for directional fragmentation mines. The Mine Ban Treaty does not ban Claymore mines outright; while prohibiting use of Claymore mines with a tripwire, it does not prohibit use in a command-detonated mode.

Although the Philippines previously destroyed all of its Claymore mines, both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are now pursuing the possibility of acquiring and using new Claymore mines. According to Lt. Col. William Estrada of the Office of the Chief of the Ordnance and Chemical Services (OCOCS) Division, the OCOCS has written to the AFP headquarters to request approval for the re-acquisition and re-use of Claymore mines.[20]

The Development Research Division of the Philippine National Police made a proposal for renewed use of Claymore mines. It noted that the use of Claymore mines is “permitted, provided, it is activated through a command detonated mode.” The PNP cited the “tactical advantage and importance of Claymore mines in Internal Security Operation (ISO) particularly in defense and force protection of small units. Thus, PNP recognizes the value of this type of landmine and recommends the DRD to prepare specification for deliberation and for approval by the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM).”[21]

The Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines has expressed its opposition to reacquiring Claymore mines. It believes that reacquisition of Claymore mines would be contrary to the spirit of the Mine Ban Treaty -- a total ban of landmines. It believes the government should not take any step that would move it away from the ideal aim of completely eradicating landmines and resolving the conflicts that give rise to their use.[22]

Landmine Problem, Mine Action, Landmine Casualties

Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao are the most war-affected provinces. According to the Department of Agriculture, landmines are found mainly in the towns of Matanog and Barira, particularly in farm areas near Camp Abubakar, the main base of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.[23] Landmines and shrapnel are slowing down government efforts to reopen farmland to agricultural production. Dennis Araullo, head of the Department of Agriculture’s technical committee overseeing agricultural relief and rehabilitation efforts in Mindanao, said that due to the presence of landmines and shrapnel, the military refused to allow some 3,000 families displaced from these towns to return home and resume farming. He said the farms are still “very risky,” even after fighting stopped.[24]

The Explosive Ordnance Division of the AFP conducted mine clearance operations after the military overran MILF camps. When landmine incidents or landmine sightings are reported, the EOD is tapped to recover and destroy the mines. Most of the mines they encounter are homemade. EOD always opts for “destruct on site” when they encounter homemade mines that are considered very delicate and dangerous.[25]

There are no comprehensive statistics on landmine victims. The AFP’s summary of landmine incidents from January to December 2000 reported 64 casualties, including 19 civilians. Of the 64 casualties, 11 died and 53 were wounded. There are no new developments in survivor assistance programs to report.

Despite its current budget deficit, the Department of Foreign Affairs is giving serious consideration to making a contribution to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Action.[26]

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[1] Remarks by Robert Ferrer, Department of Foreign Affairs, United Nations and International Organizations Division, at the forum “Measured Steps: the Global Movement to Ban Landmines,” the Philippine Center for Economic Development Hostel, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 21 February 2001.
[2] The forum was held to celebrate the first year anniversary of the Philippine ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty, at the Philippine Center for Economic Development Hostel, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 21 February 2001.
[3] Remarks by Robert Ferrer, Department of Foreign Affairs, at the forum “Measured Steps: the Global Movement to Ban Landmines,” the Philippine Center for Economic Development Hostel, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 21 February 2001.
[4] Telephone interview, Robert Ferrer, Department of Foreign Affairs, 5 July 2000.
[5] Article 7 report, 12 September 2000.
[6] Conversation with a junior officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who witnessed a joint military exercise in the summer of 2000.
[7] A summary matrix of Landmine Incidents and Landmines Recovered from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2000 prepared by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, J3 through the leadership of Brigadier General Alfonso P. Dagudag, Deputy Chief of Staff. The summary matrix was prepared upon the request of the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines, 24 March 2000.
[8] See also Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 427-429.
[9] See GMA TV network documentary entitled “Lupa ng mga Mina” (Land of mines), focusing on the landmine issue in Camp Abubakar, the main camp of the MILF overrun by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The documentary was shown on 31 July 2000.
[10] “MILF rebels plant landmines, express willingness to resume talks with Manila,” The Manila Times, Manila, 12 March 2001.
[11] “Philippines allows unarmed guerrillas to return to camp,” Agence France Presse (Cotabato), 3 April 2001.
[12] Specifically the news reports in the Manila Times, 12 March 2001and Associated Free Press, 3 April 2001.
[13] Written response by Attorney Lanang Ali, to Landmine Monitor researcher, 11 April 2001.
[14] Eid Kabalu, MILF Spokesman, “MILF Agreed to Resume Peace Talks with Arroyo Government,” Press Release No. 2 of the Central Committee of the MILF, 30 March 2000.
[15] Edith Regalado, “Davao NPAs ambush military group returning from civic action; 9 killed: Five civilians among fatalities,” The Philippine Star, 2 October 2000.
[16] Written response by Ka Julian, Central Committee of the Communist Party, to Landmine Monitor, 28 April 2001.
[17] “Abu Sayyaf gunmen plant 3,000 mines at camps,” The Star (Malaysia), 11 August 2000.
[18] AFP, Summary Matrix of Landmine Incidents. Landmine Monitor is not aware of any antipersonnel mine with this nomenclature.
[19] Article 7 report, submitted 12 September 2000.
[20] Remarks by Col. William Estrada of the Office of the Chief of the Ordnance and Chemical Services (OCOCS) Division, at the forum “Measured Steps: the Global Movement to Ban Landmines,” the Philippine Center for Economic Development Hostel, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 21 February 2001.
[21] A copy of the proposal was provided to the Philippine Campaign by a police official.
[22] Remarks by Prof. Miriam Ferrer of the PCBL, at the forum “Measured Steps: the Global Movement to Ban Landmines,” the Philippine Center for Economic Development Hostel, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 21 February 2001.
[23] Jowel F. Canuday, “Land mines slow down rehab: costs of war,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10 August 2000, p. 13.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Clearance operations were featured in the GMA TV network documentary entitled “Lupa ng mga Mina” (Land of mines), focusing on the landmine issue in Camp Abubakar, the main camp of the MILF overrun by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The documentary was shown on 31 July 2000.
[26] Robert Ferrer, Department of Foreign Affairs, at the forum “Measured Steps: the Global Movement to Ban Landmines”, the Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED) Hostel, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, 21 February 2001.