December 5, 2012: The government is moving its new warships (retired American frigates and coast guard cutters) to offshore areas that China claims. That won’t be enough because China already has many more warships and it is building over 40 new coast guard and navy patrol ships and boats. Plus, China has a growing number of navy patrol and combat aircraft. The Philippines needs a major ally, like the United States, to provide enough naval muscle to keep the Chinese from enforcing their new rules that will, starting January 1st, have Chinese naval patrols escorting, or expelling, foreign ships from most of the South China Sea. This includes offshore areas of the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and Vietnam that international law does not recognize as Chinese. Happy New Year to you too.
China has also issued new passports, which have a new map of China showing the South China Sea as Chinese territory. The Philippines and Vietnam have refused to recognize this passport. Filipinos are also angry at how China has reneged on its agreement to withdraw its warships from Scarborough Shoal (which, according to international law, is Filipino). Both countries agreed to withdraw their warships from the shoal but three Chinese ships remain. The Chinese keep offering excuses of why the ships are still there and the ships show no sign of leaving.
While the MILF has a peace deal with the government, it has to get the assent of the non-Moslem people (mostly Christians) in the south. Without that cooperation the deal will not work. Therein lies the problem, because most southerners (both Moslem and otherwise) do not trust the MILF to run this new government. The MILF is seen by many as a bunch of corrupt warlords. This is largely true but it’s also true that this is all you’ve got in the south and all there has ever been. MILF has promised to stop fighting and try to govern honestly. That may be as good as it gets.
November 30, 2012: In the north (Catanduanes Island) two NPA rebels were killed during an encounter with an army patrol. Four weapons were recovered, indicating that additional NPA dead or wounded rebels were carried away.
November 26, 2012: In the south four MILF dissidents (from the BIFF) were wounded by two roadside bombs. It’s unclear who set off the bombs. The BIFF is supposed to have a peace deal with MILF and the government. But nothing is ever as it seems in the south.
November 23, 2012: Abu Sayyaf leader Walid Amping was captured in the south (outside Zamboanga City).
November 22, 2012: In the south police cornered and killed wanted Indonesian Islamic terrorists Ustadz Sanusi. He was a member of Jemaah Islamiyah and, like many wanted Indonesian terrorists, has been hiding out in the Philippines for at least six years. Sanusi’s most heinous crime was the 2005 murder and beheading of three Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia.
November 21, 2012: The army is investigating reports from army units that the leftist NPA rebels have three women, apparently European (because of their fair complexions and the long popularity of the NPA among Dutch leftists) operating with them. The women appear to be armed. This is the first ever incidence of foreigners fighting with the NPA. It’s not unusual for European leftists to join leftist rebels in Asia or South America but usually only briefly and as journalists or “researchers”. There is one confirmed case of a Dutch woman joining the Colombian leftist rebel group FARC.