Philippines: BIFF Gets Battered


July 10, 2013: China has not backed down on its claims to uninhabited reefs and islets off the coast of the Philippines. Chinese diplomats and senior officials keep repeating that everything in the South China Sea is Chinese and that anyone else with claims should back off, or else. China even directs these comments at Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as well as the United States and anyone else who contests Chinese claims. China has recently been threatening to launch military strikes against those who get too close to these areas in the South China Sea. This is dangerous because the Philippines has troops on nine of these contested areas and other countries have even more in islets they claim. In the past China has made attacks but it’s been a long time since they tried that, and this time a large number of countries are openly opposed to the Chinese claims and increasingly united in their opposition. This does not appear to be persuading China to let up.

This month American warships and troops have been training with their Filipino counterparts. This included an American destroyer entering Chinese claimed waters off Scarborough Shoal. On land Filipino troops are being shown how to use American Puma UAVs. American and Filipino government officials are also negotiating a return of American forces to Filipino bases, especially Subic Bay which was (for nearly a century) a major U.S. Navy base. American forces left its Filipino bases after the Cold War ended in 1991, as a cost savings measure.

Peace talks resumed with MILF and this time the main topic is money. The main topic here is what percentage of local tax revenues go to the national government.

July 9, 2013: The newly appointed chief of the Manila police department (MPD) was selected, in part because of his zeal to clean up corruption. So one of his first orders was for a special muster of all members of the MPD. Trusted aides checked the count and found 13 percent of the 2,625 cops were basically no-show or “ghost” cops long protected by corrupt commanders or politicians, who either collect the salary themselves or allow a useful supporter to do so. The new chief is eliminating the no-show cops and anti-corruption officials are going after those who protected them.

July 8, 2013: Several days after leaving, Chinese coast guard ships have returned to Scarborough Shoal. Filipino fishermen have long complained that they are being chased away from their traditional fishing areas off the Filipino coast by Chinese coast guard ships. This is particularly bad at Scarborough Shoal. This is in violation of a deal made a year ago with the Chinese. Not only did Chinese patrol boats soon return to Scarborough Shoal but Chinese fishing boats again began operating there and even erected a flimsy barrier (with rowboats, rope, and fishing nets) across the entrance to the lagoon and forcibly preventing Filipino fishing boats from entering. Scarborough Shoal is in waters the Philippines claims in accordance with international law. The shoal is only 250 kilometers from the Philippines and 1,200 kilometers from China. Despite this, China claims ownership of Scarborough Shoal, but has not yet used deadly force to assert that claim. What China is apparently doing is sending patrol boats from their fishery protection service to “protect their fishermen.” According to China they are in compliance with the 2012 deal, as they never agreed that Chinese fishing boats could not operate around Scarborough Shoal. The Philippines does not agree but has refrained from sending warships to the shoal and chasing the Chinese fishing boats away. To Filipinos this is another example of China saying one thing and doing another.

In the south (North Cotabato province) the army has halted operations against BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), after several days of operations left nearly a hundred of the Moslem rebels (and six soldiers) dead and several hundred more wounded or captured. The remaining rebels have retreated into a swamp, and the army will not go after them because the Moslem holy month of Ramadan just began. The army will start shooting if BIFF breaks this informal Ramadan truce.

Last September the main Moslem separatist group (MILF) negotiated a peace deal with splinter group BIFF, which was now supposed to rejoin MILF and stop causing problems with their attacks on Christians in the south. BIFF contains former members of MILF, something MILF leaders have played down for the past three years. Last year MILF openly agreed with government demands to do something about these "outlaws." BIFF contained about a thousand armed men and MILF sought to negotiate a peace deal with the dissidents while publicly insisting that it would crush this three year old group. BIFF had become increasingly violent and outspoken about how MILF is selling out Moslems. Now MILF will have to use force to coerce the BIFF outlaws to get with the new peace deal. Otherwise the treaty will turn into a civil war within the new Moslem homeland down south. BIFF refused to comply with the peace deal it made with MILF last year and the current army operations are not being opposed by MILF.

July 6, 2013: In the South (Sulu province) two marines were wounded by a roadside bomb.

July 4, 2013: In Central Philippines (Sorsogon province) troops killed eight NPA rebels after being called in by local villagers.

June 29, 2013: Malaysia officially ended its military operations against Filipino invaders in Sabah. Malaysian 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. Meanwhile, Filipinos continue to flee Sabah as the Malaysian government is no longer tolerating Filipinos living illegally in Sabah.

June 28, 2013: In the north (Mountain province) NPA rebels ambushed a police training exercise, killing one policeman and wounding eight others.  

June 24, 2013: In the south (North Cotabato province) troops began moving against a force of at least 200 armed BIFF rebels. The BIFF men had begun attacking local civilians and had already killed two and wounded several other people. BIFF moved in more gunmen after the soldiers showed up.

June 22, 2013: In the south (Sulu province) Abu Sayyaf kidnapped two Moslem women who were filming a documentary. The two women were the daughters of a prominent Islamic clergyman and local political and religious officials stepped forward to help get the women released.

In the south (Mindanao) two soldiers died when their patrol was ambushed by NPA rebels.





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