The government is upgrading its military ties with South Korea. The new agreement implements exchanges of military personnel for familiarization and training. This is also meant to exchange information about how each nations’ troops handle disaster relief and peacekeeping operations. Less publicized were the parts of the new agreement dealing with more detailed planning for cooperation against growing Chinese aggression in the sea areas between China and all its neighbors (particularly the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam). All of these Chinese neighbors are strengthening military alliances with each other and the United States to better deal with the Chinese tactics of gradual but persistent pressure.
In addition to the military ties, South Korea is a major trade partner ($7.4 billion a year in goods, services, and investments, mostly going into the Philippines) and source of tourists. South Korea has been a growing source of new technology and technical help in many areas. While the cultures of both nations are very different, both have long experience with Americans and both have many English speakers. Some 70-80 percent of Filipinos and about 10 percent of South Koreans can converse in English. But over a third of South Koreans can understand written English, and that has created a lot of Filipinos and South Koreans who know each other via the Internet. Young South Koreans are more interested in learning English, and working or vacationing in the Philippines is a good way to improve your English skills. That also explains the growing number of South Koreans who speak English with a Filipino and not an American accent.
The army believes that the MNLF attack on the southern port city of Zamboanga on September 9th was facilitated by the rebels smuggling weapons and ammo into the city for over 8 months. Most of this stuff came from the nearby islands of Sulu and Basilan. The government recently filed rebellion charges against 65 MNLF survivors from the fighting in Zamboanga. Most of the accused are in custody, and the rest are being sought. In Zamboanga the government believes it will take 3 months for things to get back to normal in the neighborhoods where the MNLF fighting took place. Over 100,000 people fled their homes and many returned to find a lot of damage.
October 13, 2013: The 41st round of peace negotiations with MILF ended with unresolved power sharing issues still to be taken care of. The two sides did agree on where to establish buffer zones to protect civilians from any armed clashes between the security forces and MILF gunmen. It was also agreed that recent attacks by Moslem rebel groups BIFF and MNLF would not be held against MILF.
October 10, 2013: In the south (city of Zamboanga) troops looking for any remaining MNLF rebels encountered 2 of them and killed them in a brief gun battle.
The United States has come out and backed the Philippines in its call for UN sponsored binding arbitration with China over Chinese claims on parts of the South China Sea that have long been controlled by the Philippines. China has turned down Filipino calls for arbitration but with American support, pressure in the UN will be greater and more embarrassing for China.
October 7, 2013: On Basilan troops clashed with Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists and killed 2 of them. The army then chased after the survivors and fired mortars at what they believed was an Abu Sayyaf camp. The MILF said it was 1 of their camps and called the incident a violation of the cease fire. The army has long accused MILF of secretly cooperating with Abu Sayyaf and believes this is another example.
October 4, 2013: Police and soldiers executed a search warrant on the home compound of MNLF leader Nur Misuari, who was believed to be responsible for the September 9 attack on the southern port city of Zamboanga. Misuari was not at home but plenty of documents and other evidence was.
October 1, 2013: In the south (Davao Oriental) a NPA landmine wounded 5 soldiers as the NPA fled from a battle with the troops that left 1 rebel dead. Troops later found an NPA man who had been wounded and soon later identified him as a college teacher (of physics).
September 30, 2013: The army believes they have killed or captured 4 of the 5 MNLF rebel leaders who led several hundred gunmen into the southern port city of Zamboanga on September 9th. The fighting lasted for three weeks.