Philippines: Down But Not Out


January 4, 2008: In the last year, troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf 53 times, in which 67 rebels were killed, 75 captured and two surrendered. This is believed to have reduced the size of Abu Sayyaf to 379 members, down 16 percent from a year ago. Police started off the new year by capturing two Abu Sayyaf leaders responsible for the 2001 beach resort kidnapping.

Despite the setbacks, the communist NPA and Abu Sayyaf still have some public support, especially outside the Philippines. The communists play to their overseas supporters by attacking targets that resonate with the foreigners. Mines are considered bad by foreign leftists, although the locals will fight to keep them open. But it's foreign supporters who will get the NPA off the international terrorists list, and allow foreigners to again freely contribute to keeping the NPA violence going. Abu Sayyaf also depends on foreign support, but is having trouble keeping lines of communication open, given that thousands of soldiers and marines are beating the bushes on Jolo and Basilan, seeking to round up the few remaining members.

January 1, 2008: Despite a ceasefire, government forces clashed with MILF rebels 97 times in the past year, leaving 35 rebels dead and 60 under arrest.

December 31, 2007: NPA extortion demands have escalated as the organization struggles to maintain its strength. Going after road construction in rural areas and new mining projects has made the NPA even more unpopular out in the bush. The roads are needed to enable rural people to move produce out and goods in. The mining operations bring jobs and development. But the NPA rebels have to get paid, otherwise a growing number of the communist gunmen wander away looking to more secure and less dangerous work. In the last year, 13 of a hundred areas where the NPA was active, were cleared of the rebels.




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