By Strategy page
The Filipino and Chinese government are embroiled in a very public spat over Filipino accusations that China is behaving like the Nazis did before World War II, when Germany claimed ownership of all of Austria and parts of France, Poland and Czechoslovakia as part of “Greater Germany.” German aggression in pursuit of these claims, along with similar Japanese claims in East Asia, triggered World War II. China publically called this comparison amateurish, ignorant, lame, inconceivable, unreasonable and inaccurate. Unlike the Nazi and Japanese claims, China insists its assertion that it owns all the South China Sea, including reefs and islands less than a hundred kilometers from the Philippines (and over a thousand kilometers from China) are fair, reasonable and just. China also has similar claims on areas close to Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. China also claims all of Taiwan and some Chinese officials are suggesting that a case can be made for all or part of the Philippines being part of “Greater China.” The Philippines is calling on the world to help contain China and not let this turn into another trigger for a major war.
February 4, 2014: In the south (Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces) the army announced the completion of an eight day long operation against BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) rebels. The operation involved the capture of four BIFF camps and a workshop that produced explosives. At least fifty BIFF members were killed, including three who appeared to be under 18. Army commanders admitted that BIFF has not been destroyed but insisted that this operation eliminated some essential BIFF facilities. The BIFF men need bases for training and morale (a secure place to live when not creeping around in the jungle). Hundreds of BIFF members now have to find a new “safe place” and BIFF morale and operational capabilities will suffer until new bases are established. The army expects that will mean more desertions from BIFF and a good chance of quickly discovering the location of the new camps. The army has been vigorously hunting down BIFF members since 2012. This has resulted in hundreds of rebel losses (casualties and captures). BIFF leaders announced that they will continue fighting. This all began in 2012 after the main Moslem separatist group (MILF) negotiated a peace deal with BIFF which was then supposed to see the dissidents rejoin MILF and stop causing problems with their attacks on Christians in the south. This BIFF violence had been getting worse since the Islamic radical group was established in 2011. The peace deal with MILF never worked. BIFF contains former members of MILF, something MILF leaders have played down. In 2012 MILF finally complied with government demands to do something about these "outlaws". BIFF contained about a thousand armed men in early 2013 and MILF sought to negotiate a peace deal with the dissidents while publicly insisting that it would crush these rebel rebels. BIFF had become increasingly violent, and outspoken about how MILF is selling out Moslems. MILF was reluctant to use force to coerce the BIFF outlaws to get with the new peace deal. That would appear too much like a civil war that might continue once the peace negotiations created a Moslem homeland down south. BIFF refused to comply with any of the MILF deals and in the last year MILF has been more and more helpful to the army with information on what BIFF is up to and where their bases are.
February 2, 2014: In the south (Zamboanga City) someone threw a grenade into a Catholic church during a worship service, wounding five people. Abu Sayyaf is suspected because these Islamic terrorists have been making similar attacks in the area.
February 1, 2014: In the south (Maguindanao province) a roadside bomb wounded six soldiers and six civilians (including two members of a TV crew covering nearby fighting with BIFF rebels)
The Philippines is buying another 21 refurbished UH-1 (“Huey”) helicopters, for $1.34 million each. Most of the existing Filipino helicopters are refurbished American UH-1s. The Philippines has received over 150 UH-1s since 1969. About 45 are still in service and only about half of these are operational.
January 29, 2014: In the south (Negros Occidental province), soldiers arrested a senior member of the local NPA organization.
January 28, 2014: In the south (Davao Oriental province) a clash between soldiers and the NPA left four rebels and one soldier dead. Troops captured four assault rifles, three landmines, a cell phone and documents.
January 27, 2014: In the south (Davao Oriental province) seven NPA rebels surrendered.
The Philippines is expanding its special operations troops again, adding two battalions of light infantry to form the Light Reaction Regiment. This will give the Philippines about 8,000 special operations operators (as these troops are called). The two new battalions join the Light Reaction Battalion that has been around since 2004 (first as the Light Reaction Company). Back then the Filipino army used a U.S. grant of $25 million and American Special Forces advisors to train a force of Scout Rangers for counter-terrorism and hostage rescue operations. That effort proved successful and the Light Reaction Company proved so successful that more volunteers (usually from the Scout Rangers) were found and in the next few years the unit was expanded to a battalion (three companies). Because of the outstanding performance of the LRB during a recent major battle against Islamic separatists (Zamboanga in September, 2013) it was decided to expand the force to the Light Reaction Regiment.
January 25, 2014: Negotiators meeting in Malaysia signed off the last four sections (annexes) of the peace deal with the MILF. Now the government and the MILF have to approve the deal, which may be a problem as both the government and MILF have factions who do not like the final deal that gives the largely Moslem are of southwest Mindanao Island (Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan provinces) autonomy. Moslems are only eight percent of all Filipinos, and an even smaller proportion of the economic activity. MILF wants control of more of the economy, which meant control of some "ancestral Moslemareas" in the south that are now populated by Christians. The Christian majority refuses to allow domination by Moslems in a more autonomous Moslem south. This issue has now been completely resolved on paper. This deal does not please some radical groups, who may try to block implementation. Some of the tribes living in the new homeland announced that they would unite and fight any Moslem attempt to rule them.
January 24, 2014: In the south (North Cotabato province) an NPA landmine wounded eight soldiers.
January 23, 2014: In the south (Zamboanga City) an Abu Sayyaf member was captured and identified as one of the men who kidnapped three teachers in 2009.
January 22, 2014: In the south (Zamboanga del Norte) two NPA gunmen shot dead a man who used to belong to a pro-government militia.
January 21, 2014: In the sou th (Surigao del Sur province) troops acted on a tip and found a stash of NPA landmines. These mines tend to injure more civilians than soldiers or police.
The Philippines has hired an Israeli firm (Elbit) to refurbish 24 of their M113 armored vehicles for $19.7 million. In addition to rebuilding the structural, mechanical and electrical elements of the M113s, Elbit will install fire control systems as well as night vision sensors along with GPS, intercom and radios. The Philippines will also supply the turrets from 14 of its decommissioned Scorpion reconnaissance vehicles. These two man turrets are equipped with a 76mm gun that can provide excellent infantry support. Four of the M113s will be equipped to tow damaged vehicles or carry casualties. http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/phillip/articles/20140208.aspx