The army is having more success in crushing the leftist NPA rebels. This group has been on the defensive ever since the Cold War ended in 1991, and many Filipinos lost their enthusiasm for communism. Since the 1980s the armed strength of the NPA has shrunk from 24,000 to under 4,000. In many parts of the country the people regard the local NPA as bandits, not social revolutionaries. Last year NPA launched 374 attacks which left 53 civilians, 81 military personnel, eight policemen, and 22 local defense militiamen dead. The NPA favors extorting cash or goods from businesses, calling it “revolutionary taxes.”
In the south (Sulu Island) the MNLF (a Moslem separatist group that made peace with the government in the 1990s) has been pressuring a local Abu Sayyaf group to release four men (a Japanese, a Jordanian, and two Filipinos) that were being held for ransom. The Japanese man had been held for three years. The families of all four were not able to raise the amounts Abu Sayyaf demanded and the Islamic terrorists told the MNLF men that the four would not be released without substantial ransom payments. Abu Sayyaf is holding at least ten people for ransom, most of them on Sulu. Abu Sayyaf is seen as a bunch of bandits who have had some success in getting larger ransoms for kidnapped foreigners. Abu Sayyaf claims to be an Islamic radical group and they do share some of the money with friends and family in the area, but basically they are gangsters and often act like it. The military has not been able to wipe out Abu Sayyaf, but the local MNLF militia knows the area better and is giving it a try. For the last five days MNLF gunmen have been chasing the Abu Sayyaf group that was holding the four. The two Filipino hostages were recovered and two Abu Sayyaf camps were captured. At least 23 Abu Sayyaf men are dead and six captured. The Islamic radicals seem to have split into several smaller groups. Abu Sayyaf was asking for more than $2 million dollars for each of their foreign captives.
The MNLF has, for the most part, kept its part of the two decade old peace deal with the government. Many MNLF members joined the police and army and others remained as part of local self-defense militias. Abu Sayyaf tried, with some success, to develop good relations with MNLF groups on Sulu, but that eventually went bad because the Islamic radicals increasingly acted like gangsters and bad relations between the two groups grew worse and worse.
February 8, 2013: On Sulu Island MNLF gunmen seized a second Abu Sayyaf camp,
In the north NPA rebels attacked two rural construction sites and burned equipment. This was in retaliation for the companies not meeting extortion demands. NPA needs this money to keep going.
February 5, 2013: The government declared a city and 12 towns in the south (Eastern Samar) free of NPA rebels.
In the south (Bukidnon province) an NPA camp housing 150 rebels was found and seized . One rebel was arrested and three surrendered during the operation. There were no casualties but the rebels did lose a lot of equipment as the army took possession of the camp.
February 3, 2013: In the south (Sulu province) MNLF gunmen fought Abu Sayyaf terrorists for three hours, leaving 14 rebels and 8 MNLF men dead. Two Filipino captives were freed as the Abu Sayyaf gunmen fled.
February 2, 2013: Three Chinese warships are approaching the west coast of the Philippines and there is fear that these ships may be used to advance Chinese claims on rocks and reefs near the Philippines.
February 1, 2013: In the south (Eastern Samar) an army patrol unexpectedly found a hidden NPA camp. There was a gun battle as the rebels fled but there were no casualties. The rebels did lose a lot of equipment as the army took possession of the camp.
January 30, 2013: The U.S. Navy has concluded that one of their 1,300 ton Avenger class mine sweepers that ran aground on a reef in the south (Sulu Sea) will have to be dismantled. The ship is stuck firmly and cannot be removed from the reef any other way. The Philippines is surrounded by shallow waters that are full of reefs and shoals that are just below the surface. The mine sweeper is one of four Avenger class ships stationed in Japan and one of 14 in the U.S. Navy.
January 27, 2013: In the south (Negros Island) NPA rebels ambushed a truck at 3 AM and killed a policeman and eight members of a local defense unit. Elsewhere in the south (North Cotabato) an NPA landmine wounded five soldiers.
January 21, 2013: In the south (Catanduanes province) nine NPA rebels surrendered to the army over the last week as part of the amnesty program.