January 20, 2009:
The army and police are trying to put the communist NPA out of business by going after extortion activities, which currently provide most of the income (several million dollars a year) for the rebel organization. Without the extortion income, desertions from the NPA would increase. Even communist revolutionaries have to eat.
Aggressive patrolling, and use of air reconnaissance and bombing, have forced the rogue MILF fighters in the south out of a lot of the largely Christian areas they were terrorizing. But the military needs more manpower to finish off Abu Sayyaf, the MILF and the NPA. Seven more battalions (one marine, six army and local security guards). The defense budget for this year is only $1.1 billion, and includes money for the seven new battalions. Since last August, there have been nearly three hundred clashes between troops and the rogue MILF fighters. The army killed at least a hundred MILF fighters last year, and recovered the bodies. Others died from wounds, or had their bodies carried away by other rebels. The rogue MILF men are basically on a looting spree, as a form of protest for the government not agreeing to turn some 700 Christian villages over to the control of a new autonomous Moslem regional government in the south. Peace talks are stalled since a court ruled that such an autonomous region would be illegal. It's expected to take a year, or more, to get a new round of negotiations going.
In the last week, police in the south have arrested nine suspected members of terrorist organization Jemiah Islamiah. That organization has been accused of working with the 300 or so Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists hiding out in the Sulu islands. Several thousand soldiers and marines are hunting down Abu Sayyaf, but it's a slow process. Meanwhile, Abu Sayyaf demanded that the military halt its pursuit of the terrorists who recently kidnapped three Red Cross workers. The military refused to back off, even though one of the captives called to make the request. If Abu Sayyaf manages to get a lot of money for their captives, the rebels will be more powerful, and even harder to destroy. They have been trying to grab valuable hostages for over a year now, but have been thwarted by the heavy military and police presence on Jolo and Basilan islands. The Red Cross kidnapping was a lucky break for the rebels, but they made the snatch too close to military units, which are now closing in. In the last decade, Abu Sayyaf has made millions of dollars by kidnapping foreigners, and this cash made them a much more powerful terrorist organization. But the money from those crimes is just about gone, and a new supply of cash is need.
January 16, 2009: In order to enforce an extortion demand, about 80 NPA rebels attacked a road building project in the south, and caused nearly half a million dollars worth of damage.
January 15, 2009: On Jolo islamd, Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped three Red Cross staff (a Filipina and two foreigners) and demanded ransom.
January 10, 2009: In the south, rogue members of the MILF blew up an electrical transmission tower, leaving thousands without power until repairs could be made.
January 7, 2009: In the south, an MILF bomb was found under a bridge, and defused. The MILF apparently tried to bomb the bridge in retaliation for recent air strikes on their fighters.