Philippines: China Hits The Beaches


July 31, 2010: The new government said it would do something about the aging, and often non-functional equipment of the armed forces. Ships, planes, trucks and weapons are often decades old. One percent of GDP is spent on defense, and 70 percent of that goes just for salaries. Most of the rest is spent on housing and feeding the troops and officers. This makes the 400,000 active duty, reserve and paramilitary positions in the armed forces a major source of employment in a country with a shortage of jobs. Thus there is a lot of corruption, and the use of military jobs as political patronage (rewarding supporters). This has led to incompetence, bribery and often ineffective military operations. A major source of new equipment is gifts from other countries, particularly the United States. There are a few elite units (marines, scout rangers) that are largely free of corruption, and the government will have to dismiss a lot of corrupt and incompetent officers, NCOs and troops to make a difference. That will be difficult, since all the people getting the boot have weapons.

Despite the military shortcomings, decades of fighting have hurt the two main rebel groups (the Moslem MILF and the communist NPA) more, and both groups have agreed to resume peace talks. The government is trying to get a ceasefire in the meantime, without much success. Over four decades of fighting with these two groups has left more than 160,000 dead. Filipinos, even supporters of the MILF and NPA, have grown tired of the constant violence, and growing number of criminal gangs formed by rogue rebels. These outfits favor kidnapping and extortion, and use terror if they don't get their way. This is embarrassing to the MILF and NPA, making the leadership more inclined to negotiate peace deals.

July 30, 2010: In the south, a clash between NPA rebels and police left two policemen and a civilian wounded. Police recovered three NPA anti-vehicle mines that failed to work. The communist rebels make many of their own landmines, which often do not work.

July 29, 2010:  On the southern island of Mindoro, NPA rebels destroyed construction equipment (used for port building) after the construction company refused to pay the rebels $44,000 for "protection" from such violence. Four NPA rebels were killed in several clashes in the north and south.

July 25, 2010: Police arrested six Chinese, and seized their ship, for illegally mining black sand and magnetite ore on a beach. Chinese miners often bribe local officials to get away with this. But people living near the illegal mining complain to the media and national politicians, which often works. These Chinese beach mining operations have been so extensive up north that entire beaches have disappeared, which often leads to flooding of nearby farmland.

In the south, gunmen working for the Ampatuan clan were repulsed when they attacked a house believed to contain witnesses for an upcoming murder trial of clan members. The Ampatuan clan lost the recent elections in Maguindanao province. Esmael Mangudadatu, the head of a rival clan won, largely because of a massacre of his kin, followers and journalists by Ampatuan gunmen last November. The newly elected Maguindanao governor lost his wife and two sisters in the massacre (that killed 54 other people as well.) Government efforts to prosecute Ampatuans for the killings have been moving slowly. A judge recently accused the Ampatuans of trying to bribe witnesses, an effort that did not succeed. The Ampatuans apparently has some friends inside the government, who helped broker the bribery attempt. Now the Ampatuans are seeking to murder witnesses.

July 23, 2010: In the south, NPA rebels ambushed a group of paramilitaries (who provide local security), killing two and wounding another two.

July 20, 2010: In the south, two soldiers were killed and one wounded in clashes with NPA rebels. Villagers had called on the army to protect them from the NPA, which was trying to extort cash from the villagers for "protection" (from NPA raids).  






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