The Moslem rebels have lost in the south. The Moslem population has largely lost enthusiasm for the separatist struggle. The fact is that the Moslems are a small minority (8 percent) and that is why few Moslems want to keep fighting for a separate Moslem state on part of Mindanao island (the southernmost large island). The problem is, Moslems are only about a third of 22 million people on Mindanao. The rest are Christians, who do not want to share the island with an independent Moslem state. Moreover, most of the Moslem population is intermixed with Christians, and the radical Moslems want the Christians expelled. But the radical Moslems are not strong enough to force the majority Christians out. Many Moslem majority areas have become largely Christian in the past decade. The Christian majority has been encroaching, on the sparsely populated areas of the Moslem south, for over a century. But this movement has accelerated as the economy has improved in the last decade. Many Moslems see their culture threatened, but armed resistance has not done much to help. The Moslems are very outnumbered, and have been losing battles for decades. Radical Islam has not been able to halt progress, and fewer and fewer young Moslems are willing to die for that cause. But many young Moslems are willing to become bandits and outlaws, and that is what most of the hostiles down south are turning into. For that reason, the army does not want MILF fighters to join in the search for a kidnapped Irish priest in the south. There's too much risk of military and MILF groups stumbling into a surprise meeting in the bush, and a gun battle.
The MILF did help the army to identify who kidnapped an Irish priest. They did this largely to avoid getting blamed (in the form of an MILF faction going rogue, which is fairly common.) The chief suspect turned out to be a notorious (and elusive) pirate (Guingona Samal, who, with his gang, regularly robbed boats operating off the Zamboanga Peninsula in the south.) Samal is now believed to be the guy who kidnapped the Italian priest two years ago. Despite MILF assistance, it's believed that a MILF faction is providing protection for the kidnappers, and their hostage.
MILF has something else to worry about. A growing number of Christian Filipinos back an escalation of military operations, to simply attack and destroy the MILF, and keep fighting any surviving rebels that resort to guerilla warfare. The MILF cannot win this kind of fight, and it has been avoided for so long because the majority did not want to pay the price in lives and money to carry it out. But after decades of violence in the south, many Christians are losing hope for a peaceful solution.
October 20, 2009: On Sulu island, Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a school principal.
October 17, 2009: On Sulu, Abu Sayyaf damaged a bridge (pedestrians could cross, but not vehicles) and a communications tower. This slowed the response of the police and military, because the bridge was a key link in the island road network. Mobile phone and Internet use was also crippled, which made it harder for civilians to report terrorist activity.
October 16, 2009: With the death toll from two typhoons approaching 800 dead, the communist NPA rebels have agreed to continue their unilateral ceasefire. Military and police have already suspended most counter-terror operations, so they could work on disaster relief.
October 11, 2009: In the south, a foreign (Irish) priest was kidnapped. No one took credit, but Abu Sayyaf was suspected. Two years ago, an Italian priest was taken in the same area, and released after a month when a ransom was paid.
October 10, 2009: After two typhoons hit the country, killing over 600 and forcing over a million people to leave their homes, two U.S. Navy warships came over from Okinawa, with helicopters, supplies and personnel to help out. .
October 9, 2009: A large bomb was found on a beach resort in the south, and disabled. Police began developing ways to keep terrorists away from the beaches.