in the South China Sea China has established weather stations on three artificial islands and is continuing to increase the military capabilities of these artificial islands. This has caused problems in the Philippines where public opinion favors vigorously opposing these moves while the government does not want to offend the Chinese and endanger the growing number of Chinese economic programs in the Philippines. The government is accused of being bought by the Chinese while the government points out that opposing the Chinese claims in the South China Sea and off the Filipino cost is futile because the Chinese are much more powerful militarily and economically.
The CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) has not only abandoned peace talks (as of early 2018) but is trying to revive its military force in the Philippines (the NPA or New People’s Army) with a secret plan to raise money and obtain more weapons and recruits to provide it with the ability to finally carry out the CPP revolution the NPA supports. Captured documents revealed details (including a planned uprising to replace the current government) as well as proof that the revival plan is not working. The plan involves raising more cash (by going after large companies operating in the countryside) and obtaining more weapons. The police and army were alerted when details of these plans were uncovered. That made it even more difficult for the NPA revival plan to work.
The leftist NPA is in trouble because more and more rural communities are organizing self-defense militias to not only keep the NPA out of villages but to also carry out patrols to gather information for the army. For more than two years this has resulted in many more NPA men not only deserting but also accepting the government amnesty program. As a result of this, there are only a few thousand armed NPA men out there and many are fighting to survive, not win the revolution. That 50 year old struggle has left over 100,000 people dead and there is little popular support for the NPA anymore. All this is lost on most of the CPP leaders who control the NPA because those CPP leaders have long been living in exile in Europe. The senior leadership in the Philippines, essential for keeping the NPA operational and loyal, has suffered heavy losses in the last decade and that loss is one reason for the NPA falling apart. The main reason the peace talks broke down was that the CPP leaders demanded the release of over 300 imprisoned CPP and NPA members, including many of the leaders that the NPA needed to revive itself, or simply to survive. The government understood what this was all about and refused to release anyone from jail unless there were a peace deal and general disarmament.
Running the NPA has been more difficult since the 1989 collapse of popular support worldwide for communism. These leftist rebels have been fighting, in one form or another, since the end of World War II, trying to establish a communist dictatorship in the Philippines. They have not been very successful despite lots of economic and social problems they could promise to fix if they were in charge. Enthusiasm for a "communist solution" has gone downhill since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its East European communist allies in 1989-91. That massive failure of communist states left NPA much weaker ideologically and vulnerable to the current amnesty program. Even NPA leaders admit that they currently have only about a tenth of their peak (in the 1980s) strength of 26,000 armed members. There have been recent attempts to reverse the decline in popularity. NPA men are instructed to behave better around civilians and the NPA has been found giving some civilians (especially health or aid workers) compensation (a few hundred dollars each) for wounds received during NPA attacks on soldiers or police. The government has increased its efforts to provide medical care for such victims of NPA violence and the NPA is trying to compete. But NPA really can’t compete. Out in the bush they survive by acting like bandits. The call their stealing “revolutionary taxes” or, if a large company is being attacked, “revolutionary justice” but most Filipinos see it all as crimes by another name. The NPA said it was willing to negotiate a peace deal, but found that the CPP and NPA had factions which disagreed on what sort of agreement was acceptable. That remains an issue, as does the fact that support for the CPP and NPA continues to fade.
November 4, 2018: In the south (Negros Oriental), NPA gunmen killed a soldier while in the north (Quezon province) there were two clashes with NPA rebels that left one soldier dead.
November 1, 2018: In the last three days ten Filipino crewmen on two commercial vessels operating off the west coast of Africa were taken hostage by pirates. This area, largely in the Gulf of Guinea, has replaced Southeast Asia as the area of highest piracy activity. Since there is no safe space to take a captured ship the West African pirates board any vulnerable commercial ship at night, round up the crew, loot the ship of portable valuables and sometimes take members of the crew that might yield a ransom. The loot and hostages are then taken ashore and hidden away in camps deep inside the Niger River Delta or other remote coastal areas.
During 2016, in large part because of increased seaborne attacks by Abu Sayyaf off the southern Philippines, Southeast Asia replaced the coasts of Somalia and Nigeria as the area with the worst piracy problem. In 2015 there were 178 attacks on ships at sea worldwide but none off Somalia and less than a hundred off Nigeria. The most active area was Southeast Asia. In 2016 Southeast Asia accounted for over 35 percent of the pirate attacks worldwide.
This shift in pirate activity was not sudden. Worldwide piracy has been declining since 2012 because most of the Somali pirates were shut down. At that point, activity shifted back to the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia and areas near the Malacca Strait. In the first eight months of 2015, some 80 percent of the pirate attacks on the planet occurred in this area. That came to nearly ten attacks a month. Nearly all of them are robberies of the crew and stealing of portable valuables. The crewmen are usually not hurt and based on their experience it appears most of the pirates come from Malaysia and Indonesia and were largely amateurs. There were some professionals in action in 2014. These fellows were able to hijack ships long enough for cargo to be transferred at sea to someone who could resell it and this provided far more money for the pirates than the more common robbery incidents. But those professional pirates are gone, in part because theft that large left a data trail that police and intelligence agencies could pick up and follow. In 2015 Malaysia and Indonesia joined forces to run more helicopter and warship patrols through areas where most of these less costly robbery attacks were taking place. This sort of quick reaction patrol could move in quickly enough to catch pirates before they and their loot could disappear into one of the many coves or villages that dot the Malaysian and Indonesian coasts. Police also went after the middlemen (“fences”) who buy the valuable (and portable) electronics these “grab and go” pirates prefer. If you find the fence you can often find his suppliers. In any event, these robber pirates are more numerous and being amateurs can quickly drop out and, as far as the police are concerned “disappear.” Some of these small time pirates are believed to have been in the business, on and off, for over a decade. The police want to make some arrests and well-publicized prosecutions (and convictions) to discourage many of these amateur pirates from returning to robbery.
Then Islamic terrorist pirates became active and did not play by the usual rules. Abu Sayyaf had always engaged in some piracy in the waters between Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines. But in 2016 Abu Sayyaf pirates became much more active. By mid-2016 Indonesia and Malaysia were putting a lot of pressure on the Philippines to do something about the Abu Sayyaf pirates based in the Philippines and threatened to curb seaborne trade with the Philippines Abu Sayyaf pirates were not shut down soon. Such a ban would hurt the economy in the southern Philippines. One result of those complaints is Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreeing to allow their air and naval forces to freely enter each other’s territorial waters and airspace when pursuing pirates. By 2017 the Abu Sayyaf pirates were on the defensive and now they are much reduced in numbers and activity. Meanwhile, the West African pirates are still active but only get global publicity when they kidnap non-Africans and hold them for ransom.
October 26, 2018: In the south (Negros Oriental) police arrested the NPA regional head of training and recruiting along with four new recruits she was taking to a training base.
October 25, 2018: President Duterte fired the head of the Bureau of Customs and ordered more than a dozen senior officials in customs to be replaced as soon as possible because of corruption in the Bureau of Customs that made it easy to import illegal drugs. This wholesale replacement of senior management was due to a senior drug cartel member agreeing, in late 2017, to enter the Witness Protection Program and provide details of drug operations in the Philippines and about senior government officials who accepting bribes to keep the drug trade operational. The government is apparently building cases against a number of senior officials and their subordinates. This is expected to reveal the infrastructure of lawyers and corrupt judges that make it so difficult to prosecute senior officials.
October 22, 2018: The national police have ordered 700 commercial UAVs at a cost of $1,500 each. Details were not released but for that price, it is probably a high-end (long endurance, high rez vidcam) commercial quad-copter. These are popular for police work worldwide and China is the largest producer.
October 21, 2018: In the south (Bukidnon province), soldiers acting on a tip found and fought a small group of armed NPA rebels. Most of the communist gunmen got away but one body and his weapon were recovered.
October 20, 2018: In Britain, a team of Filipino Scout Rangers placed 4th in the annual (since 1959) Exercise Cambrian Patrol (EX CP) held annually in to see who has the best long-range patrol forces. This event began as British only event but soon went international. This year there were 139 teams competing, most of them from Britain but also many from 31 nations. The Philippines had long had formidable special operations forces and this was more evidence of that. These began as the Scout Rangers in 1950, formed with the help of the U.S. Army which was then reviving its World War II ranger force and creating the U.S. Special Forces. The Scout Rangers were similar to the American Ranger Regiment, but with more emphasis on scouting. This comes from the Alamo Scouts, a special recon unit created by the U.S. 6th Army during World War II. The 6th Army played a major role in driving the Japanese out of the Philippines and the Alamo Scouts were often sent in to collect information on the Japanese and work with Filipino guerillas. The Filipinos were impressed by the Alamo Scouts, thus their Ranger regiment became Scout Rangers. U.S. Army Special Forces troops eventually helped train and organize the Special Forces Regiment that contained commandos and troops similar to the American Special Forces. In the 1970s the Philippines formed Special Operations Command but it was disbanded in 1989 after some of the special operations troops took part in an attempted coup. In 1995 a new Special Operations Command was organized with the Special Forces Regiment and Scout Ranger. Both of these units had been rebuilt after a post-coup purge.
October 18, 2018: In the south (Camarines Sur province), NPA gunmen ambushed a police convoy, killing three policemen but not harming the senior government official the police were escorting.
October 15, 2018: In the north (Laguna province), a senior political official of the NPA and four associates were arrested.
October 12, 2018: In the central Philippines (Panay Island), the local (regional) NPA leader was arrested.
October 10, 2018: In the south (Sulu Island), police encountered armed resistance when they went to arrest two known Abu Sayyaf members. Two Abu Sayyaf men were killed and four others arrested and their weapons seized.