August 28, 2013: Strategy Page
Vietnam and the Philippines announced that are developing joint military and diplomatic plans to thwart increasing Chinese aggressiveness in territorial disputes throughout the South China Sea. In the past Vietnam tried to go it alone against China and got beaten in several battles. Perhaps because of the rough treatment Vietnam has received from Chinese forces in the past, the Philippines also repeated its staunch support for a “no confrontation” policy. This is part necessity, because even with lots of charity the Philippines cannot expect to ever afford a military that would be more of a nuisance to China. For confrontation, especially when China asserts its claims to territory right off the Filipino coast, an ally like the United States will be needed. So far the Americans have not committed to helping with such a desperate situation.
As the peace talks with MILF creep towards completion the Moslem factions that oppose the terms of the deal (limited autonomy and not independence) are now accused of supporting terrorist attacks in the south (Mindanao and adjacent smaller islands). Abu Sayyaf is accused of cooperating (and being paid) to help carry out this disruption campaign. This violent factionalism is nothing new in the south and is seen as a problem that will persist after the peace deal is implemented.
The government is having a problem with southern (largely Moslem) politicians who refuse to allow American UAVs to operate from local airports. Although the UAVs are often used to aid disaster relief (like for the recent massive typhoon storm damage) the politicians fear retaliation from Islamic terrorists who see the American UAVs as a mortal threat and want to interfere with the use of this aerial surveillance as much as possible. In the latest case it was the government that asked for the U.S. UAVs to be brought in to provide a more precise view of the storm damage that has left nearly a million Filipinos homeless.
August 26, 2013: Over 100,000 people demonstrated against corruption in the capital and other major cities. The anger was directed at “legal corruption” in the form of millions of dollars a year given to politicians for their favorites projects but that is widely acknowledged to be diverted to personal use. The government has been unable to get the legislature to vote down this practice and that created widespread anger against seemingly feeble efforts to curb corruption. Most Filipinos now agree that the corruption is the biggest obstacle to economic growth and all manner of progress in the country.
August 24, 2013: In a peace gesture the NPA released a soldier they had captured 20 days earlier. The NPA is in the early stages of peace talks with the government, apparently in an effort to build on whatever gains the MILF talks create.
August 21, 2013: In the south (North Cotabato province) NPA gunmen attacked a banana plantation and destroyed six trucks and stole portable equipment. The plantation owners had refused to meet NPA extortion demands. The NPA depends on extortion and kidnapping to keep itself going.
August 18, 2013: The government finished another four days of negotiations with MILF. This was the 39th meeting and both sides said progress continued to be made in sorting out the details of Moslem autonomy in the south.
In the south (North Cotabato province) NPA gunmen attacked a construction site and destroyed three construction vehicles. The construction company, which is building a road, had refused to meet NPA extortion demands.
August 13, 2013: In the north (Laguna province) NPA gunmen attacked a bus company depot and destroyed 11 busses. The bus company refused to meet NPA extortion demands. In this case the NPA was also apparently backing a union that was having a hard time getting more money out of the company. This sort of violence is also common in labor negotiations.
August 10, 2013: In the south (Cotabato) the army launched another offensive against BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters). The first day of fighting left two rebels dead and two soldiers wounded. At least two thousand civilians fled the fighting, which centered on army efforts to keep the rebels from blocking a key highway. BIFF apparently also planted two bombs in the area. One went off but caused no casualties while the other was found and disabled. The army has carried several of these operations against BIFF this year. Each results in dozens (or more) rebel casualties and captures. But so far BIFF, despite getting weaker, has not called it quits. Last September the main Moslem separatist group (MILF) negotiated a peace deal with BIFF which was then supposed to rejoin MILF and stop causing problems with their attacks on Christians in the south. That has not happened yet and apparently won’t. BIFF contains former members of MILF, something MILF leaders have played down for years. Last year MILF openly agreed with government demands to do something about these "outlaws". BIFF contained about a thousand armed men earlier in the year and MILF sought to negotiate a peace deal with the dissidents while publicly insisting that it would crush these rebel rebels. 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.