Philippines: This Land Is Our Land

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May 3,2008: For the first three months of the year, eight NPA bases have been found and destroyed, and 300 of the communist rebels have been killed or captured, or surrendered. The army sees the NPA using more extortion to raise money, otherwise they will not be able to maintain their current strength of about 5,000 armed members. That's down 80 percent from a decade ago. The collapse of communism in the early 1990s, and the NPA being declared a terrorist organization after September 11, 2001, has hurt. But the NPA will not go away quietly. The hard core are determined to survive, no matter the cost to the country. The government expects the NPA to eventually collapse in the next two or three years, with the remnants becoming politically motivated bandits.

In the south, over a thousand armed MILF members moved into an area containing many Christian farms and villages, and forced several hundred Christians off their property. The MILF believes the land belongs to Moslems. The Moslem minority in the south resents Christians moving in, something that has been happening with increasing frequency since World War II. But the movement of Christians south has been going on for centuries.

May 2, 2008: So far this year, three of 28 most wanted Islamic terrorists have been captured. Most of these men are foreigners, seeking sanctuary in Moslem areas of the southern Philippines. Local Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf have lost six percent of their strength so far this year, with only about 380 members still active.

May 1, 2008: Some 300 troops attacked a major Abu Sayyaf camp on Jolo. Captured documents indicated that about 200 Abu Sayyaf and a dozen Jemaah Islamiah (and Indonesian Islamic terrorist group) members. Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was wounded in the operation, and his adult son was killed. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for Isnilon Hapilon. The camp contained a bomb making workshop. The location of the camp was discovered via a tip from local villagers who had heard rebels excitedly talk of a major terror operation being planned.

April 26, 2008: In the last two days, clashes with NPA rebels left four soldiers dead and two captured. The NPA will try to exchange the soldiers for jailed NPA men. The NPA has tried this before, without success.

April 23, 2008: An example of the corruption that cripples the economy and government effectiveness, is the crackdown on false claims by the 9,000 U.S. military veterans living in the Philippines. In the late 1990s, Filipino medical providers discovered that it was easy to scam the U.S. military health care insurance system (Tricare) with false claims. The U.S. had shut down its major Filipino bases in the early 1990s, along with the base hospitals which had provided much of the care for U.S. veterans living in the Philippines. Then, between 1998 and 2003, health claims by these veterans increased 20 times, but the number of retirees stayed the same. The fraud was worst in 2003, when about two-thirds of the $62 million paid out to Filipino health providers by Tricare was fraudulent. Cracking down on the fraud proved difficult, again because of local corruption, especially in the legal system. Most of the veterans are Filipino-Americans who returned to the old country to retire, and live better because of the lower cost-of-living. Many of these vets went native and cooperated with the health insurance scammers, for a cut of the proceeds. This attitude makes all sorts of foreign aid, even military aid, less effective. Any military operations with, or by, the Philippines has to deal with the debilitating effects of corruption.

 

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