Philippines: The Chinese Threat Grows

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September 14, 2014: The government released more photos showing how China is building military facilities on the disputed Johnson South (Chigua) Reef and several other reefs. China will not admit that it is expanding these reefs (by dredging up sand) and usually insists that they are merely trying to rebuild a reef that has been damaged by storms. This is not the sort of thing China does. Building bases on reefs, on the other hand, is something the Chinese do frequently in the South China Sea. The Chinese “reclamation” project on Johnson South looks more like a new island than a restored reef, complete with a new airstrip and lots of buildings. The reef is claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Until 1978 it was occupied by Vietnam but in that year China took it by force, killing 70 Vietnamese (and sinking two ships) in the process.  The Philippines accuses China of violating a 2002 agreement not to expand existing islets or reefs and build bases there. Not only is China ignoring that agreement on Johnson South, but also on Mabini, Calderon and Gaven reefs. These bases often include air strips long enough to handle jet fighters.

In the south (Davao) a Jamaican convert to Islam, who described himself as a preacher, was arrested and held for deportation. The man lived in Canada where he converted to Islam and established a reputation for supporting Islamic radicalism.

September 12, 2014: China warned its citizens to stay away from the Philippines. This is in reaction to a recent plot to bomb Chinese targets in the Philippines. The police disrupted these plans and there were no casualties, but the obvious anger of Filipinos towards China because of Chinese claims on Filipino territory has the Chinese government concerned.

September 11, 2014: The government published a 969 year old Chinese map showing that Chinese territory in the South China Sea did not extend beyond Hainan Island. Other old maps show areas now claimed by China as clearly considered the territory of nearby states, not distant China. Although China has access to lots of these old maps they ignore them when justifying their claims on all of the South China Sea.

In the south (Mindanao) a Chinese teenager was kidnapped. Elsewhere in the south (Zamboanga Sibugay province) a South Korean businessman was also taken. In both cases the kidnappers were believed to be a local gang that kidnaps foreigners and then sells them to Abu Sayyaf, which has plenty of remote hideouts and experience in negotiating big ransoms.

In the south (North Cotabato province) a clash with soldiers left five BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) men and two soldiers (former BIFF members) dead. This came about when a group of BIFF men attacked an army outpost and were repulsed.

September 10, 2014: In the south (North Cotabato province) a group of BIFF rebels encountered an army patrol and fled. The soldiers pursued and caught up with the twenty BIFF gunmen the next day. A gun battle left two soldiers and ten rebels dead. BIFF has been more active lately because in late July Abu Sayyaf and BIFF publically pledged allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), which recently declared a new caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq that has Islamic terrorist groups worldwide excited and divided. Thus al Qaeda has condemned ISIL for being too extreme but that appeals to more radical Islamic terrorist groups like Abu Sayyaf. BIFF is a radical MILF faction that showed up in 2008. The main Filipino Moslem separatist group (MILF) has been fighting the BIFF since 2011 because of BIFF attacks on Christians in the south. Since then the BIFF violence had been getting worse. BIFF is also under attack by the security forces and has suffered heavy losses. Abu Sayyaf and BIFF are each believed to have only a few hundred armed members, who survive by stealing, extortion and kidnapping. Some BIFF and Abu Sayyaf members are believed to have left the country recently headed for Syria. Filipino intelligence believes that between 100 and 200 Filipino Moslems (not all of them MILF or BIFF members) have gone to Syria or Iraq to join ISIL.

In the south (Mindanao) the army revealed that a senior NPA leader in the area has been bedridden for most of 2014 with kidney problems, leaving local NPA units distracted because of uncertainty over who the new leader will be. In any event the army believes that NPA will be destroyed in another year or so. As evidence of that the army points to the recent surrender of six NPA gunmen in the area. These surrenders are becoming more common.

September 8, 2014: The government released revised (upward) crime statistics and said the recent arrests of several senior police commanders was part of an effort to eliminate a police effort to understate actual crime. To no one’s surprise the actual crime rate is twice what the phony police statistics have been showing. The falsification of data has been going on for at least three years.

September 4, 2014: In the north (Northern Luzon) five NPA gunmen were killed in a clash with soldiers who had discovered a hidden NPA camp and attacked it. Most of the dozen or so leftist rebels in the camp escaped.

September 3, 2014: In the south (Basilan) a police raid on an Abu Sayyaf hideout (belonging to a recently killed Abu Sayyaf leader) found a large quantity of drugs (methamphetamine) in addition to the weapons and ammo that was expected to be there. This was surprising as the police had not suspected that Abu Sayyaf was also involved in drug dealing. The investigation of this new development continues.

In the capital an eccentric and very anti-Chinese politician (Elly Velez Pamatong) was arrested for organizing a failed plot to blow up the Chinese embassy and several Chinese owned business. Two days earlier three men were arrested at the Manila airport because of a van full of explosives found there and eventually admitted the Pamatong connection.

In the north (Abra province) five NPA rebels were killed when an army patrol, answering a call for help from a remote village, found NPA men abusing the villagers and after a brief gun battle most of the leftist rebels fled.

September 1, 2014: In the south (Basilan) two armed helicopters attacked a suspected Aby Sayyaf base. This was a continuation of an operation begun several days earlier when a clash with the Islamic terrorist rebels led to the death of two officers.

August 31, 2014: Near the Israeli border with Syria 35 peacekeepers from the Philippines escaped capture by Syrian al Nusra gunmen and made it into Israel. Another 40 Filipino soldiers followed after a seven hour standoff and gun battle with al Nusra. The UN has 1,223 peacekeepers (from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines) monitoring the Syrian/Israeli border. The UN troops have been there since 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Israel and Syria. Israel defeated Syria in 1967 and took the Golan Heights. In 1973 Israel defeated a strong effort by Syria to regain the Golan Heights. Since then the UN has watched over an uneasy peace.

August 30, 2014:  In the south (Basilan) Abu Sayyaf beheaded a security guard they had kidnapped. Abu Sayyaf posted a photo of the murder on the Internet. This was apparently inspired by recent similar murders in Syria by ISIL. Elsewhere in Basilan a group of Abu Sayyaf encountered some soldiers and in the brief gun battle two officers (a colonel and a captain) were killed.

Elsewhere on Basilan an army Special Forces officer was killed when his patrol encountered some Abu Sayyaf gunmen, who soon fled after a brief firefight.

August 29, 2014: In the south (Compostela Valley province) soldiers pursuing NPA rebels came upon an NPA camp. Several of the leftist rebels there were wounded but all managed to escape into the bush. In the camp the troops found a workshop for making landmines. These are a favorite NPA weapon for protecting their camps from surprise attack. 

August 28, 2014: MILF pledged to wipe out groups like BIFF that have openly declared allegiance to radical al Qaeda organizations like ISIL.

In the south (Tawi-Tawi) police arrested an Abu Sayyaf man wanted for terrorist acts in nearby Malaysia.

August 26, 2014: In the south (Basilan) police arrested an Abu Sayyaf man wanted for terrorist acts (kidnapping and assorted other mischief).

August 25, 2014: In the south (Sorsogon province) two soldiers were wounded in an NPA ambush.

August 24, 2014: In the south (Davao City) the mayor revealed that police knew of some local men who had joined ISIL and were determined to commit some spectacular acts of Islamic terrorism in the Philippines.

August 23, 2014: In the south (Mindanao) NPA rebels raided two plantations and did considerable property damage. This was in retaliation for the plantation owners refusing to pay the NPA not to attack.

The government is pulling its peacekeepers out of Liberia (because of an outbreak of Ebola fever) and Syria (because of attacks by Syrian rebels). This will involve 446 troops stationed in those two countries
 

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