Philippines: Spratly Showdown With China


May 11, 2011: Peace negotiations with the MILF have hit another obstacle. The MILF leaders want more control over major businesses in the south, accusing these operations of oppressing Moslems. A lack of economic activity in the south has long been a problem. Partly it's due to the corruption and clan violence. It's a hostile environment for any kind of business. But it's also due to demands like this, giving political leaders more control over the economy. This just creates a more hostile investment climate, and keeps new businesses from being started in the south. The MILF sees large businesses as political rivals, and wants to eliminate that problem, even if it means trashing economic growth in the south.

On the plus side,  MILF has been persuaded, by Malaysian advisors, to drop calls for the formation of an independent Moslem state in the southern Philippines. This threat has long been an impediment to completing peace negotiations with the government. The MILF has also promised to maintain the ceasefire, despite a steady supply of rogue MILF commanders acting up to sabotage the peace deal. Currently, there are several of these rogue MILF leaders, commanding over a thousand gunmen. MILF leaders are trying to persuade these  commanders to get back in line, as fighting a civil war within MILF would be very unpopular in the south, and could create more splits.

In the last week, two wanted Abu Sayyaf terrorists were arrested in the north, where one of them was working as a security guard. In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death on the 2nd, there was fear that local Islamic militants would seek to commit attacks. There were some protests in the south, against the killing of bin Laden. Most Filipinos became more alert, and police got a lot more tips about where wanted Islamic terrorists might be.

May 5, 2011: In the south (Bukidnon) police pursuing NPA rebels (that had raided a police station) found and destroyed an NPA camp. Some rebel equipment was captured, but the fleeing rebels took most of their weapons with them. Elsewhere in the south, NPA rebels attacked soldiers and wounded five of them.

May 3, 2011: In the south (Bukidnon) NPA rebels raided a police station and stole about a dozen firearms.

April 23, 2011: A bomb was found and defused in the south. Examination of the device indicated that it was made by someone in Abu Sayyaf.

April 19, 2011: China and the Philippines are escalating their low-key struggle for control over the Spratly Islands. The Philippines has appealed to the UN, and China has told the UN and the Philippines to back off. The Spratlys are a group of some 100 islets, atolls, and reefs that total only about 5 square kilometers of land, but sprawl across some 410,000 square kilometers of the South China Sea. Set amid some of the world's most productive fishing grounds, the islands are believed to have enormous oil and gas reserves. Several nations have overlapping claims on the group. About 45 of the islands are currently occupied by small numbers of military personnel. China claims them all, but occupies only 8, Vietnam has occupied or marked 25, the Philippines 8, Malaysia 6, and Taiwan one. It is feared that China will use its growing naval power to eventually just force the other nations out of the Spratly islands.


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