The Philippines has suffered over 150 covid19 deaths so far and has about 3,500 known cases of the virus. The government has ordered a nationwide lockdown to halt the spread and make it easier to treat those who have it. So far so good.
Covid19 does not appear to have spread to the thousands of Chinese living on existing and artificial islands in the South China Sea that China has claimed and is holding by force against international law and international court decisions affirming the Chinese occupation is illegal. China has offered to assist the Philippines in dealing with covid19 as long as they don’t call it the Wuhan virus. China is currently trying to suppress news of the disease inside China, where many locals report their government is not reporting the continued presence of the virus and the growing number of infections and deaths. China is trying to shift blame for the virus to the United States. People in Wuhan find this hard to believe because it was a local doctor who first noticed covid19 in December 2019, raised the alarm and was promptly silenced by the government for “spreading rumors.” The doctor later died of the virus and has become a folk hero to local Chinese.
Diseases similar to covid19 are common in China and scientists found 80 percent of it was identical to the earlier (2003) SARS, a less-lethal covid-type type virus that also originated in China. Filipinos don’t trust China, especially given the way the Chinese have handled the outbreak of the Wuhan virus and its subsequent spread.
While the Philippines has been able to deal with Moslem separatists, Islamic terrorists, leftist rebels, drug gangs and corruption, China persisted and has become a major threat to the Philippines.
April 3, 2020: In the south (Mindanao) four NPA (leftist rebels) members surrendered because they were hungry and tired of hiding from the security forces.
April 2, 2020: China has announced that it is establishing scientific research stations on Subi (Zamora) Reef and Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef. Both of these locations are in the South China Sea. Subi Reef is Filipino because it is within 22 kilometers of Pagasa Island, which is Filipino sovereign territory. China also occupies Mischief Reef and Mckennan Reefs which are both on the Filipino continental strength and, according to international law, part of the Philippines.
April 1, 2020: In the South China Sea Chinese coast guard ships are patrolling Second Thomas Shoal, First Thomas Shoal, and Half Moon Shoal, all within the Filipino EEZ but now claimed by China. The Philippines EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone, waters 380 kilometers from the coast) in the South China Sea is where Filipinos have been fishing the reefs and other shallow waters for centuries, long before there was a Philippine state and without interference from Chinese fishermen, who only occasionally showed up. That’s because fishing boats with refrigeration, a 20th century invention, only recently made it possible for Chinese fishermen to scour the entire South China Sea for fish to profitably catch, refrigerate and carry back to China. The 20th century also meant the possibility of finding oil or gas deposits in the South China Sea as well as controlling key shipping routes via the Malacca Strait.
March 29, 2020: Malaysia has been warned that a group of Abu Sayyaf pirates had recently left Jolo Island in the Philippines and crossed the Sulu Sea towards Sabah, a Malaysian territory long menaced by Abu Sayyaf pirates and raiders. Currently, Abu Sayyaf only has a few hundred active members and is short of cash, local support and new recruits. Kidnapping used to be a good source of cash, especially if a foreigner could be taken. That has become more difficult and risky because the Filipino and Malaysian military has increased the number and effectiveness of its land and naval patrols. That’s one reason most of the recent pirate attacks have occurred in Malaysian waters. Abu Sayyaf also considers itself part of ISIL but that association is second to keeping the Islamic terrorist group operational and that requires cash.
March 28, 2020: In the north (Rizal province) troops were attacked by about 30 NPA gunmen. One soldier and one communist rebel were killed. Two soldiers and several NPA men were wounded as the leftist rebels fled. The government criticized the NPA for violating its own ceasefire that started on March 19th.
March 24, 2020: In the south (Jolo Island), a kidnapped doctor escaped his Abu Sayyaf captors when the gunmen were spotted by some soldiers and closed in. The Abu Sayyaf men fled without trying to take their elderly captive with them. The doctor had been kidnapped from his local clinic on February 4th and the Islamic terrorists were demanding a ransom of $59,000, which his family had not been able to raise yet. The troops caught up with his kidnappers, who escaped after a brief gun battle. Some of the Abu Sayyaf men may have been wounded.
March 21, 2020: In the south (Surigao del Sur province), NPA gunmen murdered two tribal elders. It is unclear why but the reason was probably intimidation, to compel locals to cooperate with the communist rebels.
March 19, 2020: The NPA declared a ceasefire, until April 15, so that everyone can deal with the covid19 epidemic.
March 16, 2020: In the south (Lanao del Sur province), a BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) member (a low-level leader) surrendered to the police. Elsewhere in the south (Sultan Kudarat province) an NPA member was arrested.
March 14, 2020: In the south (Maguindanao province) over a dozen soldiers were wounded during a series of clashes with BIFF Islamic terrorists.
March 13, 2020: In the north (Luzon), police in Baguio City located and went to arrest three wanted CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) officials. The three were armed, resisted and died in a gun battle. The dead included the head of the NPA. Another of the dead was a member of the CPP executive committee. The CPP has lost the broad support it had fifty years ago when their rebellion began. The NPA is falling apart and a growing number of factions have gone gangster.
March 6, 2020: In the south (Maguindanao province), troops clashed with a BIFF Islamic terrorists several times over the last four days and killed about 14 of them while even more of them were wounded and got away. Only five BIFF bodies were recovered but local villagers who reported the Islamic terrorist presence later reported the larger number of dead from airstrikes and artillery fire. Troops captured some abandoned camps that had been hit by airstrikes or artillery and confirmed that blood trails indicated heavy casualties. Weapons, ammo and other supplies were captured. BIFF considers itself part of
ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and
has been under constant heavy attack since late 2018. Only fewer than a hundred members remain active and this clash reduces that number considerably. BIFF was originally formed to oppose BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), the autonomous Moslem region because they considered it insufficient. Since it was finally created in early 2019 BARMM has proved very popular among Moslems and that meant much less support for groups like BIFF.