Philippines: The Main Threat Is China


June 7, 2015: China is apparently putting its aggressive territorial claims against India on hold, the better to concentrate on the South China Sea. This has led to Japan and the Philippines discussing the terms for the Japanese navy and air force to use Filipino military bases. India is in touch with the nervous nations that border the South China Sea and wants to cooperate. In response China has offered to resume negotiations with the Philippines over the South China Sea disputes. China said it was willing to allow the Philippines to share the new facilities (on newly created islands) China is building. This makes it clear that any peace talks begin with the understanding that China owns the South China Sea. That makes any further talks difficult to justify.

The U.S. Navy continues its patrols of disputed areas in the South China Sea, very visibly ignoring the growing Chinese demands that the American warships and aircraft obey instructions from Chinese officials in the area. It was recently revealed that China tried to jam communications of a Global Hawk UAV patrolling the area and sent numerous radio messages to a manned (P-8) maritime patrol aircraft to leave. The P-8 continued its patrol and ignored the Chinese. This is in response to the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam encouraging the United States to follow through with plans to have American aircraft and warships regularly challenge parts of the South China Sea and challenge Chinese claims.

None of China’s neighbors believe legal action will make China halt its continuing moves down there. China is now attempting to regulate how other countries can use it (for fishing, oil exploration, or even transit via sea or air). Only American military power can provide an obstacle the Chinese cannot just brush aside, at least not without risk of escalation and violent encounters. It has long been American policy to actively oppose the sort of claims China is making. In addition to building small islands (from sand dredged from reefs and sand bars) China now plans to build light houses and other “navigation and control” facilities which will be run by Chinese government staff. The Philippines is surrounded by shallow waters that are full of reefs and shoals that are just below the surface. This includes over a third of the South China Sea. Larger ships must move carefully through these waters and groundings are common. A Chinese warship recently went aground in 2013. So far American opposition to China has been very restrained and not persuaded the Chinese to slow down.

Japan is adjusting its rules (some of them mandated by a pacifist post-World War II constitution) to enable its navy and air force to join the United States in patrolling disputed sea areas China is claiming, especially in the South China Sea. Japan is also offering more military aid to the Philippines, which is facing more territorial claims offshore than anyone else and is leas equipped (than other threatened countries) to confront China.

The government revealed that during the first five months of the year security forces had killed at least 65 members of Abu Sayyaf. This Islamic terror group in the south has been on the defensive for nearly a decade but still survives in the south, mainly on the islands of Sulu, Jolo and Basilan. The government has also identified 200 Abu Sayyaf members who are still active and evidence that there are 400 of these Islamic terrorists altogether and that the Islamic terrorist group will eventually be destroyed. The government believes the MILF and NPA rebellions are under control as is the Islamic terrorist threat (mainly Abu Sayyaf). The government sees its biggest military threat as Chinese claims on Filipino territory in the South China Sea.

June 6, 2015: In the south (Basilan) soldiers and local defense militia guarding a town water supply were attacked by twenty Abu Sayyaf gunmen. The attack was repulsed and two of the Islamic terrorists were killed. But as they retreated they captured one of the local militiamen and beheaded him. Abu Sayyaf are particularly hostile to the pro-government self-militias because these groups are very tangible evidence that Aby Sayyaf is losing local support.

June 5, 2015: The Chinese Navy announced that it will begin carrying out training exercises in the waters (Bashi Channel) between Taiwan and Philippines. This would bring Chinese warships close to Taiwanese coastal waters. The U.S. reported that China recently moved self-propelled artillery vehicles to one of the new artificial islands it has built. In this case the two artillery vehicles were within range of areas claimed by Vietnam. The two vehicles were later removed and this was apparently part of a training exercise. China is increasingly sending its amphibious ships (including the ones that can transport and land heavy vehicles) into the South China Sea for training.

June 3, 2015: China criticized Filipino accusations that Chinese claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere were similar to the many Nazi German territorial claims that triggered World War II. China called comparisons to the Nazis absurd and unreasonable. Most of Chinas’ neighbors and Western nations involved in World War II agree with the Filipino description of Chinese actions.

June 2, 2015: The United States again called on China to stop building islands in the South China Sea in areas that, by current law, belong to other nations. The U.S. also offered Vietnam $18 million to buy new patrol boats.

Russia delivered two Tarantul class corvettes to Vietnam. Armed with anti-ship missiles, these corvettes give Vietnam more to threaten Chinese aggression in the South China Sea with. Russia has also supplied Vietnam with six Kilo class subs as well as anti-ship missiles launched from torpedo tubes. The United States, Japan and South Korea have similar submarine capabilities.

June 1, 2015:  In the south (Cavite province) police arrested the number two leader of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines), along with his wife. The CPP is the parent organization of the NPA and is handling the peace negotiations held in Norway. The CPP demanded that the couple be released because they were connected to the peace talks and thus immune from arrest. The government pointed out that only people named in the agreement that got the peace talks going were immune and the two people being held are not on that list.

May 30, 2015: A Filipino fishing boat reported that it was fired on by a Chinese warship near the Mabini Reef, an area also known as Johnson South Reef and within the Filipino EEZ but where China was building an island by dredging. The government is still trying to confirm if the shooting (apparently warning shots) took place.

May 29, 2015: In the south (Jolo Island) a suspected Islamic terrorist attack on a mosque in a police compound left 15 wounded, including ten policemen. The attackers used a grenade followed by a bomb (to hurt people coming to help) ten minutes later. No one has taken responsibility for the attack.

May 26, 2015: In the south (Davao Oriental province) four soldiers were wounded when troops clashed with a group of 30 NPA rebels. More troops arrived and joined the pursuit which eventually captured large quantities of weapons and equipment the rebels abandoned so they could escape.

May 23, 2015: The Navy commissioned its first fleet oiler. The ship is a used tanker donated by a local oil company. The navy refurbished the ship and will now use it to refuel warships at sea so these vessels can stay on patrol longer.

In the south (Sulu) Abu Sayyaf released the seven year old son of a policeman. The child was taken in March as revenge against the policeman for killing an Abu Sayyaf leaders. Apparently the bad publicity from taking and holding such a young child eventually convinced the Islamic terrorists to just free the kid.

May 21, 2015: In the south (Surigao del Sur province) the NPA freed two prison guards they had captured in April while ambushing a prison transport carrying an NPA member. These kidnappings are very unpopular and NPA decided it was better to just let these two go.

May 20, 2015: In the south (Jolo) police cornered and killed Mindas Manda (also known as Muktader Marwan). Manda was wanted for murder and kidnapping and had long been a member of Abu Sayyaf. 

May 19, 2015: In the south (off Sulu Island) several Abu Sayyaf gunmen in a speedboat came near a civilian boat and opened fire, killing two civilians before leaving the areas. 




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