In a major development, the MILF has agreed to drop their demands for a separate Moslem state in the south, and will instead accept a Moslem area that has autonomy, but is part of the Philippines. There are still details that can derail the negotiations, but the degree of autonomy was a major one that is now settled. The situation is more peaceful in the south these days, with traditional clan feuds creating more death and mayhem than religion-inspired terrorism.
The communist NPA is feeling the heat of social change, as the government introduces more education, health and economic development efforts in rural areas the NPA long considered their own. NPA gunmen are trying to interfere with these projects, with attacks on the troops that deliver the services, or guard the civilians who do so. But three years after the government offered an amnesty deal to members of the NPA, and increased military efforts against those who would not surrender, the communist rebels are much reduced in strength. The communist rebels have been fighting, in one form or another, since the end of World War II, trying to establish a communist dictatorship in the country. They have not been very successful, despite lots of economic and social problems they could promise to fix if they obtained control of the country. Enthusiasm for a "communist solution" to problems has gone downhill since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and its East European communist allies, in 1989-91. This massive failure of communist states left NPA much weaker ideologically, and vulnerable to the amnesty offer.
Since 2002, several hundred U.S. military personnel have been stationed in the Philippines, to provide military training for Filipino counter-terrorism forces. Many of the trainers are U.S. Army Special Forces, but others provide instruction on technical matters, related to the high-tech surveillance gear the U.S. has provided. In the last eight years, 11 of these American trainers have died, either due to accidents or terrorist attacks. None have died in combat, as Filipino law forbids foreign troops to engage in combat on Filipino soil.
As part of a worldwide trend, a quarter of the 1,200 who passed the most recent exam to enter the Philippines Military Academy were women. Only fifteen percent of those who took the tough exam passed. The exam is designed to be stressful, with lots of time pressure, as well as academically demanding. The proportion of women seeking to join the military is increasing in the Philippines, as it is in so many other countries. Women seek support jobs, especially those that require more training or education.
October 1, 2010: In the southeast, 300 kilometers from the capital, a soldier was killed in a clash with NPA rebels. The NPA men fled, leaving one assault rifle behind. Such aggressive patrolling has reduced NPA income from extortion and demoralized the communist gunmen, who find themselves constantly being harassed and chased by soldiers and police. Worse, the government forces are seeking the NPA bases, and increasingly, finding and destroying them. This is a big blow to rebel morale, as the NPA men have lost their homes and must find new hideouts and rebuild.
September 24, 2010: Another Abu Sayyaf leader, Alton Ladjaalam, was arrested. Ladjaalam had moved to the capital, where he had become a drug dealer (methamphetamine).