Philippines: China Chooses The Outlaw Life

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July 19, 2016: The government rejected a Chinese offer to hold talks over the South China Sea dispute. This was because the Philippines does not consider the situation a dispute but rather a case of unwarranted Chinese aggression. Now the Philippines has international law on its side. On the 12 th the Permanent Court of Arbitration backed the Filipino accusations that China is acting illegally with its claims in the South China Sea and that it was illegal for China to build artificial islands and claim them as Chinese territory. This was a major disappointment for China which used lots of bribes and threats since the case was filed in 2013 to organize international opposition. China already said it would not recognize the court decision and it promptly offered to discuss the matter with the Philippines after the ruling was announced. Britain and other Western nations have already announced their belief that the Court of Arbitration ruling would be binding and they would enforce any penalties levied. China cannot ignore that. The Philippines, America, Australia, Japan and South Korea all openly oppose the Chinese claims. Other nations in the area (Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and India) held back for a while but are now also in open opposition.

If China makes more claims or goes through with threats to declare the air space over its illegal artificial islands to be restricted anyone who challenged China would be within the law and Chinese use of force would be an outlaw act. This will get interesting because the Chinese government has made its aggressive territorial claims against India and in the South China Sea a matter of national pride and a restoration of past glories. That’s always dangerous, especially for a communist police state that depends on a domestic and international free market economy to prevent another revolution in China. If China goes to war it loses. If it violates the court decree it risks international sanctions and the kind of economic slump that will threaten the authority of the current Chinese government. The Philippines doesn’t want war with China, but they do want the Chinese to back off on their claims to Filipino territory as defined by international law.

President Duterte, in power since July 1st, has spent most of his time on his campaign promises to deal with corruption and crime. He also told MILF and other southern Moslems that if Congress does not approve the autonomy deal worked out with MILF he would immediately get to work on a new deal. Duterte also ordered the military to come down hard on Abu Sayyaf and any other active Moslem rebel groups (like BIFF) in the south. The military has 10,000 troops down there and responded by applying unprecedented pressure on Abu Sayyaf, which is currently holding ten Indonesians and one Norwegian for ransom. Apparently no ransom is being offered and Indonesia is sending troops to help with the search. Abu Sayyaf recently murdered (beheaded) two Canadian hostages because ransoms were not paid and is now threatening to kill the Norwegian captive as well. Abu Sayyaf wanted over $6 million for each of their three Western hostages. It demands less for the Indonesians, but Indonesia now recognizes that paying simply leads to more Indonesians being taken.

July 15, 2016: In the south (Maguindanao province) soldiers fought BIFF rebels over four days, killing more than 40 of them and wounding 29 others. One civilian was killed and nine soldiers wounded. In the last battle troops found and captured a major BIFF camp. Hundreds of people fled their homes to escape the fighting. BIFF is an anti-peace treaty MILF faction founded in 2011. MILF was supposed to deal with BIFF but didn’t, apparently because a lot of MILF members have some sympathy for the radical BIFF views. The army believes there are only about a hundred armed BIFF members left, mainly because of several major military operations in areas where BIFF has been active. BIFF has also pledged loyalty to ISIL but has not yet adopted the ISIL practice of committing horrific murders. MILF is increasingly (and openly) critical of BIFF and that may be why BIFF has not been acting like an ISIL franchise. MILF is also angry at BIFF for creating doubts among Christians in parliament where the peace treaty was very unpopular. The current military operation may not wipe out BIFF but it will greatly reduce the ability of the group to do anything.

July 14, 2016: In the south (Sulu province) Abu Sayyaf killed three off-duty soldiers in a village market.

July 12, 2016: The UN backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled Chinese claims to own the South China Sea as without basis and illegal. The court specifically mentioned areas belonging to the Philippines that China insisted were Chinese. As promised China promptly repeated its intention to ignore the court and its ruling. Chinese celebrities, especially those with international fans, promptly denounced the court ruling and Chinese state controlled media ran dozens of different stories, obviously prepared in advance, explaining why the court ruling was invalid and irrelevant. Chinese allies, like Pakistan promptly announced support for the Chinese position. India urged China to seek peaceful resolution of those disputes, but many Indians now wonder if India would win a similar suit challenging Chinese claims on Indian territory. In August 2015 India went public with its support for Vietnam and other nations in the area opposing China claiming most of the South China Sea. India has long criticized the Chinese position but is now being more public about it. Now that the case has been decided India is being more diplomatic.

July 11, 2016: In the south the military reported that operations in Sulu and Basilan provinces had left at least 40 Abu Sayyaf men dead in the last week, along with at least 25 wounded. One soldier has been killed and six wounded.

July 9, 2016: In the south Abu Sayyaf kidnapped Indonesian three men from a fishing boat that was working between the Philippines and Malaysia (Borneo). This is the fourth such incident in the last five months and the Philippines has agreed to allow Indonesian troops operate in Basilan and Sulu provinces to assist in the search for the ten Indonesians Abu Sayyaf is holding. Indonesian troops have been selected for service in the Philippines but both countries are still working out the details of how the Indonesians will operate on Filipino territory.

July 5, 2016: China began a week of naval exercises in the South China Sea. The exercises ended on July 11th, just before the Permanent Court of Arbitration announced its decision regarding Filipino accusations that China is acting illegally with its claims in the South China Sea.

July 1, 2016: In the south (Basilan province) troops captured Mudzrih Abih Adjalan a much wanted Abu Sayyaf bomb maker. Another Abu Sayyaf man was taken along with Adjalan. The troops made the pre-dawn raid because of a tip they had received.

 

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