The army is sending another artillery battalion to the south (Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi). The 105mm howitzers are used to attack Islamic terrorists in remote areas, either to attack camps or hit a group of Islamic terrorists on the move. The government is determined to crush Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf once and for all. The group recently received a $5.7 million ransom for two Germans they had kidnapped. Because of that the price of weapons on the local black market have risen sharply as Abu Sayyaf has made some major purchases, for cash of course. Abu Sayyaf survives by having lots of cash for bribes or as gifts to people who help them as well as pay and benefits for their full time members. The increased effort has produced results with several large Abu Sayyaf camps found and destroyed and several senior leaders killed.
The Philippines is protesting Chinese construction of an artificial island on a reef 457 kilometers from Palawan Island (inhabited by 770,000 Filipinos and not claimed by China, at least not yet). The artificial island already has a landing strip and some other facilities. The artificial island is built on Kagitingan Reef which, as part of the Spratly Islands, is claimed by China even though parts of the islands on within the territorial waters of other nations. China calls Filipino accusations baseless as the Spratly Islands and most of the South China Sea belong to China and that is that. China is also demanding that nine Chinese fishermen, arrested in May for poaching off the Filipino coast be released. China insists that these fishermen were in Chinese waters even though, according to international law the Chinese were closer to the Philippines and in Filipino waters. The Philippines imposed fines and other charges of $103,000 per poacher and insists that this be paid before the men are freed.
November 25, 2014: For the first time ever, two Vietnamese warships visited the Philippines. The two Russian built frigates were obtained by Vietnam from Russia, along with six modern submarines, to provide some deterrence against growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. Vietnam has joined forces with the Philippines and other Chinese neighbors to discourage China. So far it does not seem to be working.
November 23, 2014: In the south (Basilan) troops found and captured an Abu Sayyaf camp. Five Islamic terrorists were killed while others escaped. Many weapons, document and much equipment was captured in the camp. Elsewhere in the south (Zamboanga City) police charged an Abu Sayyaf member with bombing a massage parlor earlier this month.
Five years ago today a clan related massacre in the south left 58 dead and so far no one has been prosecuted. Such is the power of clan warlords in the south. In 2012 the government ordered the national police to eliminate the many private armies and get it done by 2013. That has not happened. Because of the Ampatuan clan militia massacre in 2009 the government was forced to acknowledge the existence of private armed groups, or PAGs. Official attempts to identify and count PAGs quickly found over a hundred of them. The existence of PAGs is embarrassing because many of these private militias are controlled by local politicians who support the national government and were allowed to form (often with help from the army and national police) these armed groups to help in the fight against Moslem (MILF) and communist (NPA) rebels. Many of these militias have been around for over half a century and their leaders are often local landlords or businessmen. This mix of politics, economics and private militias often went rogue, as was seen to horrific effect in November 2009 clan massacre that left 58 dead. Many of the PAGs continue to receive weapons, training and other assistance from the government. The problem has been the lack of supervision, mainly because the national level politicians did not want to offend their local supporters by questioning how the private armies were used. Often, PAG members were used to intimidate voters during elections, or for purely criminal activities. The identified PAGs had about 4,000 members. About half the PAGs are recognized as participating in illegal activities, the government is under increasing pressure to crack down. These illegal activities have been an open secret for decades, but prosecuting the PAG leaders means taking on powerful local families, who provide political and economic support for national political parties and politicians. Since 2010 about a quarter of the PAGs were disbanded, and half the known PAG members dismissed. The remaining PAGs have resisted disbanding. Part of this has to do with the large number of illegal weapons many of these fighters use. There are believed to be three million firearms in the country of 90 million, but 40 percent of these pistols and rifles are unregistered and illegal. Getting rid of the PAGs won’t get rid of all the illegal weapons.
In the south (North Cotabato province) two men bombed a billiard parlor killing two and wounding 23. Islamic terrorists were suspected as these religious fanatics do not approve of sports.
November 22, 2014: In the south (Sulu) a senior Abu Sayyaf leader was killed, along with a soldier, when troops sought to arrest the wanted Islamic terrorist (who had a $120,000 price on his head).
November 21, 2014: The United States has again warned its citizens to stay away from areas in the southern Philippines, especially Sulu Province and the southern Sulu Sea area. This is all about increased Abu Sayyaf activity in this area, especially the kidnapping of foreigners for ransom.
November 18, 2014: In the south (Jolo) troops arrested 14 suspected Abu Sayyaf members. Those arrested were believed to be associated with a large group of Islamic terrorists the army fought with on the 14th.
November 16, 2014: In the south (Jolo) troops continue to pursue several hundred Abu Sayyaf men they clashed with on the 14th. The fleeing Islamic terrorists are said to have two foreigners they are holding for ransom.
Elsewhere in the south (Maguindanao province) soldiers clashed with BIFF rebels leaving four of the MILF renegades dead and one soldier wounded.
November 14, 2014: In the south (Jolo) troops encountered some 200 Abu Sayyaf gunmen and a five hour battle ensured. Five soldiers and ten Islamic terrorists were killed along with 28 soldiers and 30 Islamic terrorists wounded. Several Islamic terrorist leaders were killed or wounded in the clash as they strove to rally and extract their men from the battle.
Elsewhere in the south (North Cotabato) BIFF (MILF renegades) rebels killed two civilians (and wounded three others) when they fired mortar shells at approaching soldiers who were coming to arrest some BIFF leaders.
November 12, 2014: In the south (Basilan) a grenade was thrown into a warehouse. Abu Sayyaf was suspected of doing this to coerce the owner to pay “protection” money.
November 9, 2014: In the south (Zamboanga City) two bombs went off in a bar, wounding a policeman. Abu Sayyaf was suspected.
November 8, 2014: In the south (Basilan) the local governor asked for help from the government to deal with Abu Sayyaf threatening at least 13 mayors with violence if they did not pay lots of cash ($2,000 and up) as a “gift” to the Islamic terrorists. Other local officials have been threatened as well. Abu Sayyaf survives by having lots of cash for bribes or as gifts to people who help them as well as pay and benefits for their full time members.
November 7, 2014: In the south (Occidental Mindoro) fifty NPA rebels raided a town, killed three people and kidnapped the mayor and another official. NPA does this sort of thing to generate fear, as the leftist rebels no longer have much popular support in areas they have operated in for decades.
Further south (Sulu) an Abu Sayyaf member was killed by an air strike.