Philippines: China Definitely, America Maybe

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June 5, 2013: China continues to make threatening moves and noises. The Philippines is alarmed at the aggressiveness China is showing towards India, a neighbor with nuclear weapons. This is demoralizing for tiny Philippines, even if the United States says they might (possibly) assist if China became too aggressive.

In neighboring Malaysia (Sabah) police appear to have eliminated (killed, captured, driven out, or driven underground) all the Filipino Moslems associated with Filipino clan leader Raja Kiram. He openly invaded the Malaysian province of Sabah in February and sought to take control of Sabah because of an old claim his family had on the area. Most of the invasion force (several hundred armed men) was destroyed in March. The fighting resulted in over 80 dead (nearly all of them Filipinos). After that Malaysia went after what police believed were at least a hundred of the armed Kiram followers still in the area. All of these now appear to be accounted for and 23 have been charged with murder and terrorism so far. Meanwhile over 5,000 Filipino civilians (most of them apparently working in Sabah illegally) have fled Sabah, many of them returning to the Philippines. Malaysia is alert to a rumor that another hundred or so additional armed Kiram followers are planning to come over this month. Meanwhile most of the traffic is one-way, as hundreds of Filipinos continue to flee Sabah each week as the Malaysian government is no longer tolerating Filipinos living illegally in Sabah.

Peace talks with MILF resume next month and continue to make progress. The smaller (3,000 armed members) communist NPA has not come around yet and has largely turned into a criminal gang. The communist rhetoric is little in evidence anymore, but the call for “your money or your life” can be heard often. The growing use of landmines by NPA is causing casualties for the security forces as well as civilians in rural areas where NPA groups have their camps.

June 4, 2013: In the south ( Mindanao) three soldiers were killed when they encountered a landmine around an NPA camp the troops had just encountered. The army sent reinforcements and the rebels fled their camp, which was captured and destroyed.

June 1, 2013: In the south (Compostela Valley) one NPA rebel was killed during a clash with troops. The rest of the rebels fled, leaving some weapons, ammo, and equipment behind.

May 29, 2013: The U.S., Britain, and Australia advised their citizens to stay away from the southern (Moslem) Philippines and especially the city of Zamboanga because of the threat from Islamic terrorists. All three countries believe Abu Sayyaf (the main terrorist group in the area) is planning to kidnap foreigners. Ransoms are a major source of income for Islamic terrorists in that area.

May 28, 2013: China refused Filipino demands (made via diplomatic channels) to remove its warships from islands (the Spratly’s) that are closer to the Philippines than China but are claimed by both countries. China had the same message for Vietnam, which has complained about Chinese warships forcing Vietnamese fishing boats out of the disputed areas.

May 27, 2013: In the north (Cagayan province) the NPA rebels ambushed a police van and killed eight of the 15 policemen on board.

May 25, 2013: In the south (Sulu) marines clashed with Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists. The extended battle left over 30 casualties (half fatal). About half the casualties were among the marines. The marines were seeking out a group of Abu Sayyaf who were responsible for several kidnappings.

May 22, 2013: The MNLF (a Moslem separatist group that made peace with the government in the 1990s) leadership arranged a ceasefire between two MNLF factions that have been feuding with each other. The dispute had grown violent recently. The MNLF has, for the most part, kept its part of the two decade old peace deal. 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 nearby MNLF groups, but that eventually went bad because the Islamic radicals increasingly acted like gangsters and relations between the two groups grew worse and worse. Some MNLF men sympathize with the more radical Abu Sayyaf and will sometimes cooperate with Abu Sayyaf, especially if paid.

May 21, 2013: The Philippines warned China to stay away from a reef in the Spratly Islands that was occupied by a small garrison of Filipino marines. In the 1980s China removed a similar Vietnamese garrison by force and the Philippines fear that China may try that tactic again.

In the south (Davao del Norte province) six soldiers were wounded by a NPA landmine.

May 15, 2013: In the north ( Lingayen Province) three soldiers were wounded during a clash with NPA rebels.

In the south (Marawi City) police arrested two Abu Sayyaf men wanted on kidnapping and terrorism charges.

May 11, 2013: In the south ( Compostela Valley ) the NPA freed a soldier and policeman they had captured in April.

May 9, 2013: A Taiwanese fishing ship refused to halt when ordered to do so by a Filipino patrol boat. The Filipinos opened fire, and at least 40 bullets hit the Taiwanese ship, killing one of the crew. The Taiwanese ship then got away and the Taiwanese government accused the Filipinos of murder, excessive force, and attacking a Taiwanese fishing boat that was not in Filipino waters. This dispute is still unresolved. The Philippines has been getting more and more aggressive with equally aggressive Taiwanese and Chinese fishing boats that deliberately fish in Filipino waters. Taiwan and China refuse to control their poaching fishermen, and in this case Taiwan is playing the victim and threatening retaliation even though the Philippines apologized. Most Filipinos see this as bullying by the greedy and lawless Taiwanese. It is local politics and political theater at its worst.

 

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