Philippines: The Growing Threat From China

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June 15, 2011: China is telling the Philippines to halt oil exploration in the Spratly Islands, without saying exactly what would happen otherwise. The Philippines has asked the United States to help establish Filipino claims in the Spratly islands. China claims to own any oil and gas in the South China Sea. This claim is not recognized by any international agreement. China is apparently trying to bully other claimants (especially the Philippines and Vietnam) into staying away from these potential assets. All China offers is to "share" these undersea bonanzas. But the implication is that China will get most of the profits, with the other claimants getting little. China insists that the U.S. should stay out of this dispute, as it is not one of the claimants. The quarrel has sparked nationalist passions in both China and the Philippines. The United States has said it will stand by the Philippines, but no details of military cooperation have yet been announced.

The United States has repeated its warning to its citizens (first issued late last year) to exercise caution when visiting the Philippines. Special care should be taken when visiting the Moslem south, particularly Mindanao Island and the Sulu Archipelago.

June 14, 2011:  The Philippines will now refer to the South China Sea as the “West Philippines Sea”. This is part of an effort to assert claims to portions of the Spratly Islands that are closer to the Philippines than to China.

The government has suspended special anti-corruption prosecutor Wendell Barreras Sulit for 90 days. The reason is corruption, as Sulit is believed to have taken bribes and eased up on punishing senior officials caught stealing. Recently elected president Aquino has made a point of carrying through on promises (which the last few presidents have made, but not done much about) to make a dent in corruption (which is the main cause of poverty and violence in the Philippines).

June 9, 2011: In the north, an NPA leader was captured.

June 7, 2011: In the south, two clashes with NPA rebels left four soldiers dead.

June 3, 2011:  Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped an engineer supervising road work on Basilan. This is apparently a fund raising effort, done for ransom.

June 2, 2011: The government has accused China of interfering with Philippines supported oil exploration in the Spratly Islands. This exploration work is being done 230 kilometers off the coast of the Philippine's Palawan Island, which is well within the internationally recognized  "economic zone" that extends 371 kilometers from the coast. China denies such interference. China admits that it has research ships in the area.

In the north, police arrested a NPA bomb building specialist, which will cripple any terror bombing plans the rebels might have had.

May 30, 2011: In the south, the NPA arranged for the surrender of three badly wounded rebels, so they could obtain medical care. In the past, the NPA would have access to medical facilities, but the government offensive over the last few years has reduced that access.

May 29, 2011: As a propaganda gesture, the NPA released two soldiers they had captured a month ago. The NPA wants to persuade the military to halt the aggressive searches for NPA camps, especially after kidnappings or major NPA attacks. This is not likely to happen, as the government believes it can destroy the NPA within a few years.

May 28, 2011: In the south, troops clashed with the NPA, killing one of the rebels and seizing many weapons.

 

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