Peace talks with the leftist NPA rebels have been stalled over NPA demands that 30 of their imprisoned leaders be freed first. The recent increase in NPA violence is believed related to the deadlock over these demands. Meanwhile the military and police efforts to defeat the thousands of NPA gunmen continue, mainly because the NPA still regularly uses terrorist methods to raise money (mainly via extortion). Since the start of 2015 year army intelligence believes the NPAs armed strength has been reduced 11 percent (to under 2,900). Islamic terrorists Abu Sayyaf has lost about 20 percent of the 400 armed members it had in January and is seen as a bigger problem than the NPA because these Islamic terrorists continue to provide sanctuary for foreign Islamic terrorists from Malaysia and Indonesia. Some of these foreigners have special skills, like bomb making, which makes them, and Abu Sayyaf, even more dangerous. MILF has made peace and the disarmament process has begun.
China has offered to resume negotiations with the Philippines over the South China Sea disputes. China said it was willing to allow the Philippines to share the new facilities (on newly created islands) China has built. This makes it clear that any peace talks begin with the understanding that China owns the South China Sea. That makes any further talks difficult to justify. China is also trying to use financial inducements to get the Philippines to accept Chinese claims. This is possible because China has helped form and fund a new international investment organization (like the IMF or World Bank) that it will have a lot of control over. The Chinese offer is simple; do what we want and the money (accompanied by bribes for key officials, if necessary) will be available to build infrastructure, new businesses and anything else that is needed.
Australia is helping the Philippines build up its naval capabilities by donating two LCH handing craft. The two Balikpapan class LCH ships can land up to 180 tons of cargo directly on a beach. These ships are oceangoing, have a crew of 16 and an endurance of five days while carrying a full load and about two weeks if travelling empty. Eight of these ships were built in Australia in the early 1970s. Australia is refurbishing two of those that were retired, before turning them over to the Philippines. South Korea and Japan have also donated ships. This is an effort to assist the Philippines in upgrading and expanding its navy despite having very little cash to pay for it. The Philippines has received second hand (but refurbished) frigates and Coast Guard ships to the Philippines. The Hamilton class Coast Guard cutters are 3,200 ton ocean going patrol ships that the Philippines is arming more heavily and using as warships.
July 25, 2015: Filipino fishermen found some Chinese buoys near Scarborough Shoal and towed them back home and turned them over to police. China leaves buoys to warn non-Chinese fishing boats away from disputed areas. Chinese coast guard ships visit these areas regularly and will try to force foreign fishing boats they encounter away from the area. Earlier this year Filipino fishermen accused Chinese Coast Guard crews of robbing Filipino fishing boats that the Chinese accused of being “illegally” in Chinese waters near disputed areas like Scarborough Shoal. This shoal is 220 kilometers from one of the main Filipino islands (Palawan) and 650 kilometers from Chinese territory (Hainan Island). The Chinese coast guard has a reputation for theft and other illegal activity. The Chinese government has cracked down on the worst examples of that (like assisting in the hijacking of ships or aiding smugglers) but it is known that the thefts still occur, especially when they involve non-Chinese boats. It is believed that China encourages its coast guard to do whatever they can get away with to drive foreign fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds that are now claimed by China in the South China Sea.
July 23, 2015: In the south (Zamboanga City) am Abu Sayyaf bomb went off in a club and massage parlor, killing a woman Abu Sayyaf was after and wounding ten bystanders. The place was bombed because Abu Sayyaf wanted to kill a woman who worked there and had tipped off police on who carried out an earlier Abu Sayyaf bombing. That tip led to the arrest of several Abu Sayyaf members and the Islamic terrorists vowed revenge to discourage this sort of cooperation with police.
July 19, 2015: In the south (Misamis Oriental) NPA rebels ambushed and killed three unarmed local defense militia who were off duty.
July 18, 2015: In the south (Jolo) a bomb exploded outside the entrance to an army base. There were no casualties and Abu Sayyaf was suspected. In nearby Sulu an army patrol found and destroyed an Abu Sayyaf base that could accommodate about thirty people. The troops were searching for Abu Sayyaf kidnap victims believed to be held in the area.
July 17, 2015: In the south (Compostela Valley province) an NPA ambush wounded four soldiers and a local militiaman.
July 16, 2015: In the south (Cagayan de Oro) NPA assassins wounded a senior army commander.
July 15, 2015: The government announced it is going to make repairs on a base it maintains on a reef that China now claims. A detachment of nine Filipino marines has been stationed there on a World War II era landing ship (the BRP Sierra Madre) for nearly two decades. The Filipino navy deliberately grounded the LST on Second Thomas Reef in 1999 to provide a place for this “observation team”. In 2013 Chinese patrol ships came within nine kilometers of the LST, which China insists is there illegally. The Philippines warns China that it will resist any attempts to use force against the grounded ship and while the Chinese still tries to interfere with supply ships, they have stayed away. China has protested the effort to make repairs on the LST.
July 14, 2015: The government announced that it is reactivating the naval base at Subic Bay, which the U.S. fleet abandoned in 1992 as part of its post-Cold War reductions. By reactivating the naval base (by 2016) there will be a convenient place for allied (including American, Japanese, Vietnamese and Taiwanese) warships and warplanes to stay. The revived Subic Bay naval base will have better security than nearby commercial ports and be equipped to cater to military needs. China sees reactivating Subic Bay as a hostile act. The Filipinos see it as an act of self-defense against Chinese aggression. The Philippines will station two of its warships (frigates) at Subic as well as some new jet fighters it is receiving form South Korea in 2016. Parts of the former American Subic Bay base facilities continued to be used after the U.S. Navy left. These areas will not be affected by the resumption of military activities at Subic Bay.
July 12, 2015: In the north (Quezon) NPA rebels attacked a power plant but the military guards drove them off. One soldier and one nearby civilian were killed. The attackers appear to have suffered at least nine wounded and were surprised by the ferocity of the defense. The retreating NPA men left weapons and equipment behind.
July 11, 2015: In the south (Misamis Oriental) NPA rebels ambushed some soldiers, killing one, capturing another and wounding two civilians.
July 9, 2015: In the south (South Cotabato province) an NPA landmine killed one civilian and wounded three others.
July 8, 2015: In the south (Quezon province) soldiers clashed with NPA rebels and killed three of the leftist gunmen.