After 42 rounds of peace negotiations MILF and government negotiators agreed on a power sharing deal. This was the last major issue to be settled and only some minor items remain. Both sides believe the final deal can be achieved in the next month or two. That would create an autonomous Moslem region in the south.
The Philippines and Japan recently announced further military cooperation to deal with growing Chinese claims on offshore areas that have long been considered the property of South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. These five nations have formed a loose coalition, along with the United States and Australia, to oppose the Chinese aggression. India, faced with extensive Chinese land claims, is something of an associated member of this group. The coalition gets stronger every time China makes another aggressive move, as happened recently when China claimed control over large areas of international air space. China wants all military and commercial aircraft in these new ADIZs (air defense identification zone) to ask permission from China before entering.
Coalition members responded by sending in military aircraft without telling China but warning their commercial aircraft operators to cooperate because it is considered impractical to provide military air cover for all the commercial traffic. China sees this as a victory, despite the obvious coalition intention to continue sending military aircraft through the ADIZ unannounced and despite whatever threats China makes. In response to that, China has begun running combat air patrols through the ADIZ and apparently intends to try to intimidate some of the smaller coalition members. This does not really involve the Philippines, which removed from service its last eight operational F-5 fighters in 2005. These 1960s era aircraft were not much of a match for more recent warplanes and were expensive to maintain. In the meantime, the air force has been using armed trainer aircraft for strikes against Moslem and communist rebels. South Korea has sold the Philippines twelve TA-50 armed trainers, which also have some capability as interceptors. There is still no delivery date for these aircraft, but the Philippines is apparently now asking for the FA-50 version, which is better equipped for air combat. South Korea has been very defiant against China regarding the ADIZs, including declaring its own ADIZs that overlap the Chinese ones.
In the south, on Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi islands, Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf has been reduced to about 300 active members who are surviving largely as common criminals. Kidnapping has not worked out as well as Abu Sayyaf hoped because the government has been successful in preventing most ransoms from being paid. In addition, thousands of soldiers and police on the three islands continue to put pressure on the Islamic terrorists to free the 17 kidnap victims they still hold.
December 6, 2013: In the south (Marawi City) a group of over 40 armed MILF men attacked a police station to free two of their men held in the jail. A civilian (the police chief’s brother-in-law) was killed during the attack and the police chief himself taken prisoner by the rebels. The senior MILF leadership condemned the attack and forced the local MILF leader to release the police chief. MILF insisted that this was a local dispute and not an effort to upset the truce with the government. The two prisoners had been arrested the week before for illegal possession of firearms.
Elsewhere in the south (Mindanao), two clashes with NPA left one soldiers and four rebels dead.
December 4, 2013: In the south (Sulu Island) a Jordanian journalist (Baker Atyani) escaped from his Abu Sayyaf captors after being held for 16 months. Abu Sayyaf later insisted they had freed the man as a good will gesture but Atyani insisted he had escaped. Jordan said that no ransom was paid.
December 2, 2013: China announced that it has the right to set up an ADIZ over international air space near the Philippines or even within the Filipino EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) that extends 380 kilometers from the coast. The EEZ is recognized by an international treaty that China signed but now ignores by claiming reefs and uninhabited islands off the Filipino coast. The Philippines quickly responded that it would not tolerate a Chinese ADIZ off the Filipino coast. But the Philippines will have to rely on stronger allies to actually thwart such Chinese moves.
November 23, 2013: In the south (Surigao del Norte province) troops clashed with some NPA gunmen and killed one of the rebels.