China has assured the Philippines that there would be freedom of movement in the South China Sea, but remained quiet about who would control fishing and oil drilling. China has previously claimed all these resources, even when close (less than 100 kilometers) from territory of other countries (like the Philippines). China is apparently not backing off from these claims and has openly told the United States to not get involved in these "local matters." This is all part of a Chinese strategy of using intimidation and threat of military force (from China's much larger, than a decade ago, navy and air force.
Peace talks with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) have unexpectedly settled some key points over how much authority an autonomous government in the south would have. But the deal isn't signed yet and, as has happened in the past, factions in the Christian north or Moslem south could scuttle at the last minute what appears to be a done deal.
September 9, 2012: The NPA rebel organization apologized for a September 1st grenade attack on a village festival in the south (outside Davao City). The explosion wounded nearly 40 people, all of them civilians. The apparent target was a nearby army base, but no soldiers were injured. The NPA announcement mentioned the possibility of compensation. The NPA has been losing public sympathy for two decades now. These communist rebels have been fighting, in one form or another, since the end of World War II, trying to establish a communist dictatorship in the country. They have not been very successful despite a lot of economic and social problems they could promise to fix if they obtained power. Enthusiasm for a "communist solution" to problems has gone downhill since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and its East European communist allies, in 1989-91. This massive failure of communist states left NPA much weaker ideologically and forced the leftist rebels to undertake criminal scams (extortion and kidnapping) to raise money needed to stay in business. For many Filipinos the NPA came to be seen as bandits, not socialist revolutionaries.
September 8, 2012: In the south MILF has reached a deal with a splinter group (BIFF, for Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), which will now rejoin MILF and stop causing problems with their attacks on Christians in the south. BIFF contains former members of MILF, something MILF leaders have played down for the past two years. Recently MILF openly agreed with government demands to do something about these "outlaws". BIFF contains about a thousand armed men, and MILF had sought to negotiate a peace deal with the dissidents while publicly insisting that it would crush this two year old group. BIFF had become increasingly violent and outspoken about how MILF is selling out Moslems. That has all changed. A contributing factor to this policy change is the health problems the BIFF leader (Ameril Umbra Kato) is having. He was secretly treated in a southern hospital recently, with the assistance of a local politician. This revelation put an unwelcome spotlight on the fact that many southern Moslem politicians have close relationships with MILF and even BIFF. Kato is apparently out of action long-term and his lieutenants have been quick to make a peace deal with MILF.
September 7, 2012: On Basilan Island Abu Sayyaf ambushed trucks carrying workers home from a rubber plantation. The gunfire killed one man and wounded 36. This is apparently part of an ongoing Abu Sayyaf effort to extort money from the plantation managers.
September 6, 2012: In the south (Sorsogon and Camarines Sur provinces) several clashes with NPA men left two soldiers and two rebels dead.
September 5, 2012: In the south (Iriga City) police found and arrested a senior NPA leader.
August 26, 2012: In the south (Davao City) soldiers clashed with NPA rebels, leaving one rebel dead and three soldiers wounded.
August 25, 2012: On Basilan Island police arrested an Islamic cleric known to be involved with Abu Sayyaf.