Philippines: Peace With Moslem Separatists

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October 8, 2012: The new agreement with MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) calls for the establishment of an autonomous Bangsamoro (Islamic state) that will consist of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao (including Cotabato City) provinces in southwestern Mindanao and the island provinces of Basilan (including Isabela City), Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in the Sulu Archipelago and some parts of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato provinces. All this is in southwestern Mindanao Island. Sharia law shall be used in Bangsamoro. Moslems are only eight percent of all Filipinos and an even smaller proportion of the economic activity. MILF wanted control of more of the economy, which meant control of "ancestral Moslem areas" in the south that are now populated by Christians. The Christian majority refuses to allow domination by Moslems in a more autonomous Moslem south. This issue has not been completely resolved. This deal does not please some radical groups, who may try to block implementation.

Government web sites have been under constant attack over the last few days, apparently in retaliation for a new law against Internet based crimes. Many Internet privacy and hacker groups protested the new law as too restrictive and intrusive. The hackers promised retaliation, but the Filipino groups insist that they are not doing the damage. Most of the attacks apparently only deface web sites but there is fear that the hackers are going further and doing damage (and theft) that has not been discovered yet.

October 7, 2012: The government announced a final peace deal had been reached with MILF (the Moslem independence group). The deal will be signed on the 15th but many details remain to be worked out. Fifteen years of fighting with MILF has left over 120,000 dead (mostly Moslems in the south). MILF currently has about 10,000 armed followers. This is not the first time a peace deal was made. An earlier one, in 1989, was signed and many Islamic separatists disarmed. But many more radical separatists did not, they formed MILF and kept fighting. Now even many MILF members are tired with all the fighting and few results.

October 6, 2012:  An NPA leader (Benjamin Mendoza) was captured outside the capital (in Quezon City) along with three associates. Mendoza has a $135,000 reward on his head. The NPA has been fighting since the late 1960s to establish a communist dictatorship. Over 40,000 have been killed in that fight and NPA currently has only about 4,000 armed members.  

October 4, 2012: A court ordered the arrest of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on corruption charges (involving the national lottery).

In Malaysia Filipino and MILF peace negotiators agreed to extend their peace talks one more day because both sides believed they were close to a deal.

October 2, 2012: MILF protested the arrival of a hundred marines near Palimbang, a town in southwestern Mindanao that MILF claims is part of the Islamic autonomous area. The marines were there to break up a gang of illegal loggers (who were probably sharing profits with MILF).

October 1, 2012: In the south (Basilan) troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf terrorists, killing one and wounding two others.  

Despite Chinese demanding that the Philippines halt oil exploration in the Spratly Islands, another 800 Filipino marines are being sent to the islands to reinforce Filipino claims. 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.

September 28, 2012: The U.S. issued a terrorist alert for American citizens in Manila. The alert is to expire on October 10th.

September 27, 2012: The U.S. and the Philippines agreed to increase military cooperation. This is meant to persuade China to back off on claims to Filipino offshore territory.

 

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