December 26, 2013:
Despite the massive typhoon damage in November (which will cost more than $8 billion over the next four years to repair) the economy grew 7 percent this year and is on track to repeat that performance in 2014. The peace deal with the MILF seems headed for completion and implementation in 2014. Leftist NPA rebels are on the defensive as are Islamic terrorists. The anti-corruption movement is getting stronger. Things are looking up.
December 24, 2013: An hour before their 48 hour Christmas truce was to begin NPA gunmen in the south (Panobo) destroyed three taxis. This was apparently part of the extortion activity that keeps the NPA going these days.
December 23, 2013: In the south (Sulu) an Abu Sayyaf leader (Fraser Hagan) died when he resisted arrest. Hagan has long been sought for his role in planning many kidnappings.
December 18, 2013: The military and the NPA agreed to a four day truce to cover Christmas and New Years and the day before those two holidays. The NPA rebellion has been going on since 1969 and left 30,000 dead so far but it’s become increasingly common to have these holiday truces and generally observe them. The leftist rebels are down to about 4,000 gunmen and many of the NPA leaders are now willing to negotiate a peace deal.
December 17, 2013: The U.S. offered the Philippines $40 million to enhance their maritime security as well as the presence of more U.S. troops in the Philippines to assist in tracking and blocking Chinese aggression in Filipino coastal waters. The Philippines wants this kind of “trip wire” so that if the Chinese get violent American troops will be involved, and that will ensure further American help. Despite the tensions with China, the Philippines tries to maintain the economic ties with the largest economy in the region. Inexpensive Chinese goods are found throughout the Philippines and Chinese tourists are a growing source of foreign exchange. Chinese have been living and prospering in the Philippines for over a thousand years and Filipinos with some Chinese ancestry constitute about 22 percent of the population. The Filipino-Chinese (even the 1.2 percent who are pure Chinese) consider themselves Filipino and have resisted Chinese appeals to assist the “motherland”.
December 15, 2013: A Chinese hospital ship and its 128 medical personnel returned home after 16 days in the Philippines where they treated 2,208 victims of the recent typhoon. This included 44 operations and considerable public health activities ashore. The November 8th typhoon killed over 7,000 people and injured over 27,000.The Chinese hospital ship arrived on November 24th and left December 10th.
December 12, 2013: In the south (Bukidnon province) NPA gunmen attacked a police station killing or wounding five policemen and getting away with seven assault rifles, six pistols, radios and uniforms. This raid was not just to gain weapons and equipment but also to discourage the police from recruiting local informers and interfering with NPA criminal activities (extortion for the most part).
December 11, 2013: In the south (Agusan del Sur province) troops captured an NPA workshop that made landmines and roadside bombs. In the last three years nearly 500 NPA landmines have detonated in the south, killing 128 and wounding 325. Most or all of those mines may have been built in this workshop.
December 9, 2013: The navy received three of five AW109 helicopters it had ordered from Italy. In October the air force ordered eight Anglo-Italian AW109s as well. The navy ordered three AW109s for its larger warships last March. The AW109 is a three ton helicopter that can carry eight people and is also manufactured under license by China.