Philippines: August 30, 1999


Two weeks of fighting with MILF guerillas in the southern Philippines have left four soldiers and 17 rebels dead, and 26 soldiers wounded. The operation was brought about when the MILF kidnapped a four year old girl (the granddaughter of of a local notable who has been hostile to the MILF.) The MILF, with an armed strength of some 12,000 fighters, is the main rebel force on the southern island of Mindinao. . 

August 25; Troops fighting the NPA in the southern Philippines killed one soldier and wounded another. Several rebels were wounded. Moslem rebels also placed bombs in three busses which injured six, In a separate incident, three NPA rebels and two soldiers were killed.

August 21; Marines pursuing members of the Abu Sayyaf fundamentalist group in the southern Philippines, killed two of the rebels.

August 15; Fighting between Christian and Moslem farmers in the southern Philippines has killed nine and created more than 600 refugees. The Moslem farmers attacked a Christian village with the help of Moslem rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

August 13; A bomb exploded in a building used by National Bureau of Information (similar to the U.S. FBI), killing seven and injuring thirteen. No one claimed responsibility for the explosion.

August 11; Moslem rebels have stepped up their kidnappings, done both to spread terror and raise money. The rebels have also begin to behead some of their victims, putting more pressure on the government to defeat the rebellion.

August 9; Four bomb attacks in the southern Philippines spread fear and panic, which was apparently why the Moslem rebels have resorted to this tactic.

August 8. An army attack on a Moslem rebel camp resulted in nine soldiers killed, 14 wounded and three local civilians killed in the crossfire.

August 6; Three people were killed when ten motor boats carrying pirates raided a seaside village. Members of the local militia fought back, losing two of their number while killing one pirate. The arrival of army reinforcements caused the pirates to retreat back out to sea. Piracy has been a continuing problem in southeast Asia for centuries.

August 5; Moslem rebels killed four villagers they had taken hostage to use as human shields as they escaped.

August 4; Four Moslem separatists were killed after being stopped at an army a check point in the southern Philippines.

July 29; Five soldiers were killed when ambushed by Moslem rebels in the southern Philippines.

July 27, Leaders of the 12,000 Moro (Moslem) rebels in the southern Philippines denounced government appeals to make peace.

July 22; Despite communist rebels threats to attack Americans, U.S. sailors were given shore leave during a visit by U.S. navy ships.

July 20; Two Chinese fishing boats were sunk when after collisions with Philippine patrol boats.

July 18; Government troops continue to raid suspected Moslem extremist camps in the southern Philippines. These are small scale operations, often involving fewer than a hundred government troops and attempt to achieve surprise in order to catch senior rebel officials.

July 14; Government troops continue to battle small Moslem rebel groups in the southern Philippines. Often the police run into the rebels while pursuing criminals, as both groups take to the bush when under police pressure.

July 12th; the government announced it plans to buy 40 F-5 fighters from Taiwan at a bargain price. The F-5 is a 1960s era aircraft roughly equivalent to the Russian MiG-21.

In the first two weeks of July, skirmishes with communist and Moslem guerillas in the southern Philippines continued. The violence has not been intense, but it has been persistent, killing 3-6 rebels a week, one or two troops or police and wounding many more. Civilian deaths have also been high, especially since the rebels have often been taking sides in local disputes and feuds.

The Philippines Senate ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US on 27 May despite almost daily demonstrations by up to 3,000 protestors. The government said the agreement would be the centerpiece of its defense strategy, although the agreement provides no use of US forces to defend the Spratly Islands. The Communist rebels ended peace talks over the ratification and said they would target US troops engaged in joint training exercises. The Philippines said the communist rebels have gained strength in the last three years, now numbering 7,470 men with influence in 870 villages.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) dropped its demand for an overseas venue for peace talks. The MILF threatened to end talks over the ratification of the VFA. Militants from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been providing military training to the MILF. The Philippine economy has lost $1.2 billion due to kidnappings in the last seven years. The Philippines said it did not need a military accord with the UK since it had one with the US. The Navy said it would have to wait five years before it could purchase the 19 new patrol craft it wants and would have to make do with upgrading existing craft.

The Philippines rejected as hegemonistic China's claims of sovereignty over the islands. The Spratly islands are called the Nansha Islands by the Chinese. These islands line astride busy sea lanes and is believed to contain oil and other valuable minerals. For this reason, the islands are claimed, in whole or part, by China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. A major diplomatic dispute has arisen from Chinese construction of what they describe as "fishermen shelters" on the Mischief Reef in the Spratlys island. The Filipinos claim structures have a military purpose. The reef is within the Philippines' 200-mile exclusive economic zone as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The same law, for example, gives Canada and the United States control over the Georges Reef, one of the premier fishing grounds on the planet.

Admiral Dennis Blair, commander of all U.S. military forces, urged all claimants to the islands to resolve their differences through talks rather than threats. On May 25th a Philippine patrol craft collided with a Chinese fishing boat it was chasing for illegal fishing off Scarborough shoal, sinking it. The Philippines rejected China's demands that it pay $30,000 in compensation and punish the crew of the patrol craft. In June, Philippine navy patrol boats continued to arrest Chinese fishermen who tried to work waters claimed by the Philippines.

In late May, MILF rebels killed three policemen and three civilians. Communist rebels killed two soldiers. Other troops destroyed a Communist Marijuana plantation. In June, skirmishes continued between government troops and communist guerillas.


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