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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: August 22, 2003, 02:51:36 PM »

Philippines: Fugitive Becomes Bargaining Chip in MILF Peace Talks
Aug 19, 2003

Summary

The Philippine military is focusing on an area controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in western Mindanao in its efforts to recapture fugitive Jemaah Islamiyah member Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi. Either side would be happy to use the fugitive bomber as a bargaining chip during upcoming peace talks in Malaysia.

Analysis

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Aug. 18 that efforts to recapture fugitive Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi have zeroed in on an area controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in western Mindanao. Al-Ghozi escaped July 14 from the Philippine Intelligence Command building at Camp Crame in Quezon City, and since has been the subject of a nationwide manhunt that threatens to undermine upcoming peace talks between Manila and the MILF.

Officials in Manila say that Moro rebels are aiding and abetting al-Ghozi and demand that the MILF hand him over immediately. MILF spokesmen deny assisting the fugitive and maintain that the group is willing to help the military in its manhunt. Al-Ghozi has become a prized bargaining chip between Manila and the rebels as the two sides prepare to enter peace talks in Malaysia. The government will use the MILF's possible collusion with al-Ghozi and the JI to pressure the MILF and divide the rebels between those willing to cut a peace deal and the more extremist members. But if the MILF leaders know where al-Ghozi is or, better yet, have him in custody, then they will hand him over before the peace talks begin to show that they are not cooperating with the al Qaeda-linked JI.

The last reported sighting of al-Ghozi was in the town of Kabuntalan, in Maguindanao province near the southwestern coast of Mindanao. The area is part of the Liguasan Marsh -- a MILF-controlled region -- where members of the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division clashed Aug. 13 with suspected MILF rebels near Kabuntalan while in pursuit of the fugitive.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo flew to Kabuntalan on Aug. 16 to rally soldiers and implore them to "win in our terrorism fight in the southern Philippines." Arroyo also urged the MILF to cooperate with the army's search for al-Ghozi. On Aug. 18, Lt. Col. Fredesvindo Covarrubias, chief of the 4th Civil Relations Group (CRG), asked MILF leaders to order their field commanders to stop providing refuge to al-Ghozi.

The MILF denies it has been "coddling" al-Ghozi and insists it is willing to track the fugitive down. In addition, the rebels have asserted that there has been a case of mistaken identity -- that a man looking like al-Ghozi (a man who also escaped from prison in Manila but was charged with drug trafficking) was the one seen in Kabuntalan. MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said that al-Ghozi already is in military custody and the government is waiting for the appropriate time to publicize his capture. Moreover, the rebels claim that the AFP was using the search for al-Ghozi as an excuse to undertake operations in MILF territory during the current cease-fire, which was implemented in anticipation of the expected peace talks.

The fugitive JI bomber has become a coveted trophy for both the government and the rebels: Each could use his capture as leverage against the other during the peace talks. If the rebels hand over al-Ghozi, it will dispel allegations that they are cooperating with the fugitive and help diminish Manila's efforts to portray the rebels as being in league with the JI and al Qaeda. Because of increasing U.S. cooperation with Manila and its presence in upcoming negotiations, the MILF likely is growing sensitive to allegations of al Qaeda ties.

Manila, for its part, would sorely like to capture al-Ghozi in the heart of MILF territory, preferably in the company of rebels. It would strengthen government charges that the MILF cooperates with the JI and would help drive a wedge between war-weary rebels and hard-line members opposed to a settlement. There potentially are many members in the MILF who might be amenable to a peace deal similar to the 1996 accord between Manila and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), when the rebels traded their independence bid for limited self-rule in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

That deal was the impetus for the creation of the 12,500-strong splinter group that became the MILF. It's possible that another faction might like to come in from the jungle and give up fighting -- 241 members of the MILF, including nine commanders, abandoned their struggle for a separate Muslim state in Mindanao and pledged allegiance to the government on Aug. 14.


Related Headlines
Militant Link to Philippines Bombing Sign of Wider Campaign?
Apr 07, 2003
MILF Founder's Death Poses Hurdle For Peace Talks
Aug 05, 2003
Mixed Opinions Disrupt Resumption of MILF-Philippine Talks
Jul 10, 2003
Widespread Repercussions of Philippine Prison Break
Jul 16, 2003
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #51 on: August 27, 2003, 04:52:42 PM »

1754 GMT - Philippine opposition Sen. Gregorio Honasan -- accused of
participating in a failed military coup against President Gloria Arroyo
on July 27 -- came out of hiding on Aug. 27. Honasan said he went into
hiding two days after the coup attempt because the government was
threatening to arrest him. Honasan said he is prepared to prove his
innocence in court.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #52 on: August 30, 2003, 06:09:02 PM »

Item Number:10
Date: 08/29/2003
PHILIPPINES - DEFENSE SECRETARY RESIGNS (AUG 29/BBC)

BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP. -- Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has
accepted the resignation of Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and will
assume the defense portfolio herself, the BBC reports.


Reyes said he resigned primarily to give Arroyo a "free hand" in
dealing with continued threats to the government, including
suspected elements of the military.


The resignation comes just weeks after an attempted coup by
disgruntled military officers and troops, who seized a downtown
Manila shopping complex for several hours before giving up.








Item Number:11
Date: 08/29/2003
PHILIPPINES - SOLDIERS DEPLOYED TO PROTECT HISTORIC SITE (AUG 29/PHNO)

PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE -- The Philippine military deployed
a large contingent of soldiers and policeman to guard the Edsa
Shrine on Thursday, following reports that rebel groups were
planning to gather nearby, reports Philippine Headline News Online.


Gen. Narciso Abaya, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) said that groups were planning to seize the shrine in an
attempt to destabilize the government.


Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes played down the threat, saying,
"These are mere precautionary measures undertaken to anticipate any
projected activity."


The shrine is a monument to the revolution that ousted President
Ferdinand Marcos, and also marks the site of an uprising that
brought down President Joseph Estrada.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #53 on: September 08, 2003, 08:43:55 AM »

1137 GMT - PHILIPPINES: The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are expected to resume peace talks in October, Norberto Gonzales, presidential adviser on special concerns, said Sept. 8. The talks, which will be held in Malaysia, will be the first in two years between Philippine officials and the militant group. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said she is confident that a peace deal will be reached before U.S. President George W. Bush visits the area in late October.
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« Reply #54 on: September 16, 2003, 07:03:07 PM »

U.S. Considers Role in 'Post-Conflict' Philippines
Sep 16, 2003

Summary

The United States is seeking a role in the Philippines should Manila sign a peace deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The U.S. role is likely to include a military presence on the restive island of Mindanao -- a move that will aid Washington's campaign against international militant groups but also might embroil it in another violent counterinsurgency mission.

Analysis

Philippine presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Sept. 14 that U.S. President George W. Bush plans to push for a "post-conflict" role for the United States in the Phillipines -- if and when Manila signs a peace deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during peace talks that are expected in early October.

Though it is not clear what the U.S. role would be, Washington appears to be considering sending a military contingent to help police Mindanao, an island at the center of the MILF's long-running revolt. The move not only would enhance Washington's strategic alliance with Manila, it also would expand the U.S. battleground in its campaign against international Islamic militant groups. Though this could help Washington choose its fighting space in Asia and disrupt a haven for militant groups, a large U.S. presence in Mindanao also would present a new target for terrorist strikes -- and potentially could embroil the United States in another violent counterinsurgency mission.

Bush's Oct. 18 visit to Manila -- during which Bunye said he likely will propose a "mini-Marshall Plan" for Mindanao -- will follow months of delays in talks between Manila and the rebels. The United States announced its involvement as an intermediary -- alongside Malaysia -- in June, and Philippine officials hoped at that time that peace talks could begin in earnest by early July. However, the death of MILF founder Hashim Salamat on July 13 and an aborted coup on July 29 led to delays.






The U.S. role in the conflict was bolstered in mid-August when Washington asked five former U.S. ambassadors to the Philippines and members of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) -- Richard Solomon, Nicholas Platt, Stephen Bosworth, Richard W. Murphy and Frank Wisner -- to help facilitate the peace talks in an "unofficial capacity." More recently, Manila expressed hopes that talks would resume in Malaysia before the Oct. 15 summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) -- in time for Bush's visit.

The "mini-Marshall Plan" that Bush is expected to propose would involve an extensive development package, including $30 million to rehabilitate and develop conflict-affected areas -- to be paid immediately once a peace deal is signed - and $20 million more next year. That money would be in addition to the $74 million already allocated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, most of which is earmarked for the southern Philippines.

A U.S. military presence in the region also seems likely, though neither Washington, Manila nor MILF leaders have confirmed it would be necessary as part of a "post-conflict" role. After a year and a half of military cooperation with the Philippines -- which kicked off in January 2002 with the deployment of 650 U.S. troops for counterterrorism exercises -- U.S. operations in the country are growing in scope and scale, and the relationship is becoming closer and more institutionalized. The Philippines was granted "Major Non-NATO Ally" status when President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with Bush in May 2003, and about 1,500 U.S. Marines arrived in the Philippines on Sept. 14 for a weeklong joint exercise.

For Washington, helping to secure the peace and prosperity of Mindanao serves many goals.

First, it would strengthen the strategic alliance between the United States and the Philippines that was formed when Arroyo took office and, later, expanded with joint military operations. The Philippines' central location within East Asia makes it valuable as the United Stats undergoes a shift in force structure that relies on maintaining numerous small bases and pre-positioned equipment in key regions.

Second, a U.S.-backed and -enforced peace deal in Mindanao would be highly disruptive for groups using the conflict-torn region as a refuge. Mindanao and neighboring islands long have been a transit hub for illicit materials and a haven for militants who are training and planning missions. In addition, with Washington actively facilitating a peace deal and dumping money into the area, it is quite possible that the MILF will supply valuable intelligence to U.S. forces on Abu Sayyaf, al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah activities in the region.

Third, by deploying troops to the area, Washington would be improving its capacity to choose the battleground in its campaign against Islamist militant groups in Asia. Or, to put it more accurately, the ground has been chosen by process of elimination, but the United States is accepting the challenge. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand all have Islamist militants, but for various reasons, U.S. military operations in those countries are either impossible or undesirable. Indonesia, for example, is far too challenging -- geographically, socially and politically -- and dangerous for a deployment. And even if Jakarta allowed it, it is unimaginable that Kuala Lumpur would ever invite U.S. forces in, and Thailand is too tangential to the problem.

Mindanao, therefore, appears to be Washington's best hope of taking the fight to militant groups in Asia. In the Philippines, U.S. strategic planners likely are hoping that a military presence would put Islamist radical groups on the defensive and undermine their ability to strike targets -- not only in the Philippines, but in neighboring countries that are home to U.S. economic and military assets. However, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, the plan would provide U.S. enemies -- including hardline MILF separatists, the JI and even the New People's Army communist group -- with tempting new targets.
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« Reply #55 on: September 23, 2003, 08:31:04 AM »

1140 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has tapped Eduardo Ermita, a former general who is leading peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as the country's new defense secretary. Arroyo had been acting defense secretary since August, when Angelo Reyes resigned following a military coup attempt.
==========
Item Number:16
Date: 09/23/2003
PHILIPPINES - TROOPS PLACED ON HIGH ALERT AMID RUMORS OF UPRISING (SEP 23/AFP)

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE -- The Philippines military was placed on
heightened alert following indications that there were moves to
destabilize the government of President Gloria Arroyo, Agence
France-Presse reports.


Intelligence reports apparently indicated anti-Arroyo groups
intended to stage rallies against the government while the president
was visiting the country's troubled southern islands, including one
historic shrine that served as a staging point for coups against
Joseph Estrada in 2001 and Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.


A special military task force was activated to counter anti-Arroyo
moves, backed up by a battalion-sized unit, a military spokesman
said.
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« Reply #56 on: September 24, 2003, 10:10:08 PM »

Philippines: Will Arroyo's Standing Hurt U.S. Footing in Region?
Sep 24, 2003

Summary

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's approval ratings have sunk to record lows amid scandal and economic troubles, and Arroyo has become heavily dependent on upcoming peace talks with separatist rebels to help boost her popularity before the 2004 election season hits full gear. If the peace talks fail and she falls farther behind in the polls, the United States' strategic footing in southeast Asia could slip.

Analysis

Approval ratings for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have plunged to record lows, a Pulse Asia, Inc., survey shows. Performance ratings in categories such as fighting poverty, improving the economy and combating terrorism and crime all slumped, bringing her overall approval rating is 41 percent, down from 51 percent in August. Facing an election in 2004, Arroyo needs successful results from upcoming negotiations with separatist rebels to boost public confidence in her presidency. If the October peace talks fail and Arroyo's numbers fall further, Washington's new strategic alliance with Manila, mostly fostered under the current president, could be in jeopardy.

The drop in Arroyo's popularity follows an upswing in August that stemmed from her perceived deft handling of a military mutiny at the end of July. However, a number of factors have contributed to hurt Arroyo's standing, both recently and over the past year.

In August, the administration was besieged by the "Jose Pidal" scandal: Philippine senate committees opened an investigation into First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo after opposition senator and possible presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson said that the president's husband had laundered hundreds of millions of dollars of presidential campaign contributions and hid the funds in a bank account under the name "Jose Pidal." Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye has said Lacson's charges were baseless and politically motivated, but investigations are still under way.

In addition to political troubles, the administration has been hurt by the underwhelming performance of the Philippine economy. The country barely avoided a recession in second-quarter 2003, when gross domestic product rose by a mere 0.1 percent from the previous quarter. Political instability drove away investors, contributing to the 63 percent plunge in foreign direct investment in the first half of 2003. According to polls, 53 percent of respondents in August said they were "worse off than before," and the slightly lower number in September of 43 percent is nevertheless fairly high.

Arroyo likely is counting on expected peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur in October to help improve her image. If the president can engineer peace in war-torn Mindanao, it is likely her numbers will rise significantly just in time for the campaign season to shift into full gear for the May 2004 election. However, the opposite is equally true: If the negotiations fail and the delicate cease-fire gives way to violence, Arroyo will be highly vulnerable. Strategic planners in Washington would not like to see that happen.

If Arroyo lost the presidency, the strategic alliance between the United States and the Philippines could falter. From the U.S. perspective, a new president taking office in Manila at best would delay further cooperation against militant Islamist groups in southeast Asia while the new administration reviews the current terms of bilateral collaboration. At worst for Washington, a complete reversal could occur. Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. is a popular political figure and a vocal opponent of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. He is not alone in this sentiment -- anti-colonial feelings linger in the country, and this could be used against the president during the campaign season.
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« Reply #57 on: October 09, 2003, 08:56:43 AM »

1138 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippine authorities have recaptured suspected Muslim militant Omar Opik Lasal, who escaped from prison in July with convicted bomber Fathur Rohman al Ghozi, at a checkpoint in Zamboanga del Sur in the southern Philippines, officials say. Lasal is believed to be a member of the militant group Abu Sayyaf, and al Ghozi is a self-proclaimed member of al Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah. Al Ghozi remains at large.
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« Reply #58 on: October 21, 2003, 03:38:33 PM »

Oct 20, 2003, 11:33 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippine security officials found what they believe are traces of a "tetanus virus-carrying chemical" after raiding a suspected Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) hideout Oct. 19 in the southern city of Cotabato. However, authorities still are awaiting confirmation regarding the substance. Along with the suspicious residue, authorities found a "bio-terror manual," bomb-making materials and documents on assembling rocket-propelled grenades. No arrests were made in the raid; the eight local and foreign JI fighters already had left the home.
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« Reply #59 on: November 05, 2003, 08:51:20 PM »

Summary

A new political crisis is simmering in the Philippines. The
nation's judicial and legislative branches are embroiled in a
battle that is dragging President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's
government down. Not only will the latest turmoil hurt the
president's chances for re-election in 2004, it also will
undermine efforts to negotiate a peace settlement in Mindanao --
a situation that could hurt the U.S. strategic position in
Southeast Asia.

Analysis

A constitutional crisis is brewing in the Philippines over
efforts by lawmakers to impeach the country's chief justice. The
standoff between the judiciary and the legislature has divided
the government and the population, prompting heated political
infighting and public demonstrations.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has put the armed forces on red
alert to guard against another military rebellion or attacks by
militants seeking to exploit Manila's instability. This new
political crisis bodes ill for the president, who runs for re-
election in May 2004. It also could undermine efforts to
negotiate a peace settlement in Mindanao, hurting the U.S.
strategic standing in Southeast Asia.

Nearly one-third of the members of the Philippine House of
Representatives -- 78 in total -- signed a motion Oct. 23 to
impeach Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. for allegedly
mismanaging public funds. Davide rejected the allegations and
refused to allow a congressional review of the judiciary's books,
claiming the legislature has no authority to impose control over
the judiciary branch. The Supreme Court issued a writ against the
impeachment during the week of Oct. 20.

The complaint is the second impeachment attempt against Davide by
lawmakers in 2003, and likely is politically motivated. Former
President Joseph Estrada and his supporters launched the first
impeachment case, which alleged that Davide and other justices
violated the constitution when they swore in then-Vice President
Arroyo after a military-backed popular coup in January 2001. The
House of Representatives committee threw out the charges after
the majority of its members voted that they did not have
sufficient evidence.

Congressional leaders abruptly adjourned the house for two weeks
on Oct. 28 in an effort to block the impeachment proceedings,
giving the government an opportunity to resolve the crisis. The
House of Representatives resumes its session Nov. 10 and will
decide either to withdraw the complaint or transfer the motion to
the Senate, where Davide would face a trial and potentially be
removed from office.

The impeachment case cuts across many political lines in the
Philippines and is discrediting Arroyo's administration ahead of
an election year. Most of the lawmakers backing the impeachment
effort are in or allied with the nationalist People's Coalition
Party (NPC) and its leader Eduardo Cojuangco -- a potential 2004
presidential candidate and business tycoon who has a number of
cases before Davide's court. In addition, allies of Estrada --
who was the subject of an impeachment trial Davide presided over
-- are rallying popular support in favor of the impeachment.

Davide, however, has the backing of the Roman Catholic Church --
including influential former Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin
-- and former President Corazon Aquino.

Because of her own political considerations, Arroyo initially
tried to remain above the fray between the two warring branches
of the government. Her Lakas Party is aligned with the NPC, and
the president probably hoped the issue would be settled before
she had to take a side in the dispute.

Arroyo has asked Davide and House Speaker Jose de Venecia to sign
a covenant with her that they will break the impasse caused by
the impeachment complaint. Both Davide and de Venecia reportedly
have agreed to the executive offer. The covenant seeks a
"principled solution" to end the standoff: It would reiterate
judiciary's authority to interpret the constitution and emphasize
the need for checks and balances among the equal branches of
government. It is unclear whether the covenant will require
Davide to open the judiciary's books -- if not, the covenant is
unlikely to sway the chief justice's opponents.

During the political wrangling among Philippine government
leaders, the nation's security environment has fallen into
serious doubt. Still wary after the July 29 uprising, Arroyo on
Oct. 31 ordered division commanders of the armed forces to
account for all of their men to guard against those who would use
the political crisis as an excuse to launch another military
rebellion. On Nov. 4, Philippine troops were placed on red alert
-- the nation's highest alert level -- and more than 400 riot
police have been put on standby to guard against violent
demonstrations.

Even if the constitutional crisis ends relatively peacefully in
the coming days or weeks, the damage to Arroyo's presidency has
been done. Arroyo emerged triumphant after the aborted military
coup last summer, but her popularity is eroding as the year drags
painfully on. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, also a presidential candidate,
smeared Arroyo's image in recent months with allegations that she
was laundering millions of dollars in campaign funds through
secret bank accounts held by her husband. In the wake of Lacson's
allegations, the president's overall approval rating dropped 10
points to 41 percent. Continued political instability, especially
if sustained, likely will keep Arroyo's standing in the polls
low.

A recent survey by independent Philippine pollster Ibon revealed
that the president has dropped to fourth place among next year's
candidates: Only 7.8 percent of 1,300 respondents support her. It
is a long way to the May 2004 elections, but things do not look
good for the president.

Arroyo's increasingly untenable situation also raises questions
about Philippine security and U.S. strategic concerns. Manila is
preparing to renew peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF) to end the long rebellion on the southern island of
Mindanao. Fearing Arroyo might not be able to make good on her
pledges during negotiations, MILF leaders might prefer to wait
for a new government to come to power in Manila.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, peace in Mindanao has been a concern not
only for the Philippines and its neighbors, but also for the
United States. As the so-called "second front" in the war on
terrorism, Southeast Asia is pivotal in U.S. strategy, and
Mindanao is an important operational theater. Suffering from
decades of conflict, Mindanao has become a breeding ground and
haven for militants. The United States has sent troops, hardware
and money to the Philippines in an effort to mitigate the danger
on the island. Any progress in securing peace and security in
Mindanao probably will be hampered if Arroyo is perceived as a
lame duck and the rebels become intransigent.
...................................................................
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« Reply #60 on: November 24, 2003, 10:40:27 AM »

1255 GMT - MALAYSIA - Seven Malaysian military officers are expected to
travel to Mindanao in order to assess the circumstances surrounding the
separatist rebellion. Malaysian leaders want to determine the outcome of
peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) before deciding whether to send peacekeepers to the region. The defense officials are due to visit following the Eid al-Fitr
festival - which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan -
which is expected to fall on Nov. 25.
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« Reply #61 on: December 05, 2003, 07:14:54 AM »

Philippines: U.S. To Open Base in the Sarangani Bay?
December 01, 2003   1530 GMT

Summary

Unconfirmed intelligence from Stratfor sources on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao say the United States has begun constructing a base near General Santos City.

Analysis

Stratfor sources on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao say the United States has begun constructing a base in Sarangani Bay near General Santos City. The facility would serve as an operations and logistics base and would be a springboard for U.S. military power in Southeast Asia.

Reports of plans for a base in Sarangani Bay are still unconfirmed, but rumors have been circulating for several months in Mindanao that the United States has been eyeing the port and air facilities in the area as replacement for the Subic Bay base that was closed in 1991. Stratfor wrote as early as April 25, 2002, that the United States might be preparing a forward base in the Philippines for future regional counterterrorism strikes. We specifically mentioned General Santos City as a potential site.


The United States re-established sustained military deployments to the Philippines in early 2002 when it sent U.S. personnel to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf -- a militant Islamist kidnapping gang loosely affiliated with al Qaeda -- on the southern island of Basilan and the west coast of Mindanao. It now appears that the United States is preparing to widen its footprint in conflict-torn Mindanao. Washington has pledged funds to help develop conflict-stricken areas if and when a peace settlement is reached between the island's main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Philippine government. In addition, the U.S. and Philippine militaries are currently discussing holding the next Balikatan joint exercises in North Cotabato province in central Mindanao as part of joint efforts to hunt down Jemaah Islamiyah.

There was wide speculation over the presence of U.S. military personnel in General Santos City in September after a handful of U.S. soldiers were seen there. The sightings prompted city Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. to confirm the presence of U.S. military advisers, explaining that they were there to evaluate infrastructure projects funded under the U.S. government's Philippine Aid Plan. Acharon gave the dubious explanation that U.S. soldiers were appraising civilian projects because embassy personnel would not risk traveling to the area due to security concerns.

Sarangani Bay is an ideal place for a U.S. base in the southern Philippines. The extensive port and air facilities would provide excellent logistics support, and because the facility would be off the Philippine main island of Luzon it would be a less intrusive presence than the former Subic Bay base. Furthermore, with a base located on the restive island, U.S. forces would be well-positioned to launch and support campaigns against militant Islamist groups on Mindanao or in nearby Indonesia and Malaysia.
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« Reply #62 on: December 08, 2003, 02:41:32 PM »

Rack 'Em Up:
In Pool, It's Filipinos
Vs. Rest of the World
Warped Tables of Manila Slums
Help Breed Global Pool Stars
By JAMES HOOKWAY
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


MANILA, Philippines -- Michaela Tabb, a referee for nine-ball pool, had no inkling how much of a celebrity she is before she came to the Philippines.

But when the 35-year-old Scot arrived in Manila recently to officiate a "Philippines vs. the Rest of the World" tournament, she was besieged by fans who had seen her on television and wanted her to sign their pool cues.

"I knew pool was popular here, but I didn't expect anything like this," Ms. Tabb said while taking refuge in the players' lounge.

In the Philippines, the game introduced by U.S. soldiers before World War II has evolved into a national obsession. The sport attracts bigger audiences than boxing and basketball do. World championship games are often projected onto the walls of grimy warehouses so hundreds of people in the slums below can follow the action.

The country's fascination with pool is now creating stars with a global following. The biggest draw is Efren "The Magician" Reyes, a chubby, gaptoothed 49-year-old former world champion who trains on a diet of chicken, rice and beer.

 
"The Filipino players are exceedingly popular. Everybody tunes in when Efren Reyes or Francisco Bustamante are playing," says Luke Riches of Matchroom Sport, the London promoter of the annual nine-ball world championships.

Pool is ideally suited to the Philippines. It doesn't require much space, a significant consideration in a crowded country. It's also a cheap evening's entertainment and perfect for casual gambling, which is widespread here.

The object of nine-ball pool is to sink nine balls in sequence, with the player who pockets the No. 9 ball at the right time winning the rack. Games are fast and unpredictable. Thanks to pool's appeal in Asia, top U.S. pros such as Earl "The Pearl" Strickland are as likely to be found playing in tournaments in Tokyo or Manila as in Las Vegas. ESPN-STAR Sports will hold next year's championship in conjunction with Matchroom in either Taipei or Manila to take advantage of huge TV audiences not just in the Philippines but also in Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

Filipinos will inevitably be among the winners. Each year the country unleashes more and more professionals on the international circuit. Runner-up in the 2003 world championships: Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan, 25, a skinny Filipino with spiky hair who resides in Canada and also goes by the name "Killer Pixie."

Americans may have introduced the game here, but Filipinos perfected it. Pool tables can be found everywhere from rickety barrio grocery stalls to cavernous pool halls in Manila. In shantytowns lining a railway track bisecting Manila, residents play on flimsy plywood tables, pushing little discs of wood around instead of billiard balls.

Mika Immonen, a former world champion from Finland who played recently on the "Rest of the World" team, believes there are some parallels between pool players in the Philippines and soccer players in the favelas of Brazil. Filipinos often have little choice but to play on uneven, battered tables with warped cues, just as Brazilian slum dwellers play on potholed streets with soccer balls fashioned out of rags.

"If they can play well under those conditions, then imagine how well they can do with the proper equipment," Mr. Immonen says. "Controlling the cue ball becomes easier if you have to play under extreme conditions."

Mr. Reyes, widely recognized as among the best players the sport has ever seen, travels the world with his $10 pool stick, sending home winnings to support his family and friends. He has won as much as $160,000 in one tournament. His overseas following includes hundreds of Filipinos working as nurses, engineers or domestic servants. The current world champion, Thorsten Hohmann of Germany, estimates that more than 90% of the crowd at a recent tournament in Dubai was Filipino.

Mr. Reyes relishes his role as the champion of the Philippine diaspora. Earlier this year, he starred in an action movie, "Pakners," in which he got to beat up gangsters with his pool stick.

What Mr. Reyes likes most of all is the food his fans bring him in Tupperware containers when he plays overseas. "They're Filipino: They cook for me and take care of me until the early morning," he says. "They're not professional chefs, but it's fried fish or chicken, the food I like."

Sid Waddell, an English pool commentator known for his offbeat similes ("He's as twitchy as a frog in a blender"), says Mr. Reyes's fans frequently take their hero out singing after his matches. After Mr. Reyes made a seemingly impossible shot at a recent tournament in Holland, Mr. Waddell remarked on the air: "There'll be karaoke and chicken curry tonight then!"

Mr. Reyes's specialty is banking the cue ball off multiple cushions to hit his target ball, often sinking it. It's a skill he learned as a child in his uncle's Manila pool hall. He used to sleep on the table at night.

He made his first overseas trip, to Japan, in 1979 when it became clear nobody in the Philippines was reckless enough to play him. In 1985, Mr. Reyes went to the U.S. for the first time to play pool for money. He bagged the world championship in 1999.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@awsj.com
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« Reply #63 on: December 09, 2003, 12:42:27 AM »

Philippines Strikes Back at Kidnapping Gangs
December 08, 2003   2122 GMT

Summary

Galib Andang, a leading member of Abu Sayyaf, was captured in the southern Philippines on Dec. 7. Since Andang's chief occupation was the commander of a kidnap-for-ransom gang, the arrest is not a significant blow to al Qaeda and affiliated groups in the region, but it will help Manila curb rampant kidnapping in the country.

Analysis

The Philippine military captured Galib Andang, alias Commander Robot, a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant Islamist group, after a firefight in the southern island of Jolo on Dec. 7. Andang's capture is a significant victory in Manila's battle against widespread and frequent kidnappings in the country.

However, the Philippine government and international press are crafting his arrest as something else -- a victory against militant Islamists. The Abu Sayyaf does have loose ties to al Qaeda and its associated Southeast Asian group, the Jemaah Islamiyah. But the primary mission of Andang's group came to be kidnap for ransom, which has little to do with Islamist ideology and goals. His arrest is a victory against kidnappers, not Islamists.

Andang led the Abu Sayyaf faction that conducted the April 2000 kidnapping of 21 tourists from the Malaysian dive resort of Sipadan. However, following that raid, the Abu Sayyaf became embroiled in an ideological dispute between fundamentalists who wanted to use the hostages in negotiations for Islamist goals -- the release of imprisoned group members and the recognition of an Islamist state -- and others who preferred to ransom the hostages for cash. Andang was one of the more entrepreneurial leaders.

Andang's arrest will not decapitate a working al Qaeda or affliated group, but the gang leader could provide a wealth of information under interrogation -- reportedly, he is already cooperating with Philippine authorities.

Commander Robot's downfall follows a renewed crackdown on kidnappings that has plagued the country in recent years -- a problem that businesspeople and diplomats consider a key factor in deterring foreign investment. The Nov. 17 abduction of a Coca-Cola executive, found dead in a trash can the next day, indicates the criminal trend in the country. According to ABS-CBN television, more than 100 people were kidnapped in the first 10 months of 2003.

Last October, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes to head the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (NAKTAF) that implemented new measures in December to curb kidnappings. Among the measures are new random checkpoints in high-risk areas and an in-depth investigation on reported collusion of police and military personnel with kidnap-for-ransom groups.

Manila has been making progress: The leading kidnap-for-ransom group was taken out of commission Nov. 20 after gang boss Roberto Yap and several core members were killed in a shootout in the northern province of Bataan. Andang's capture shortly after the Yap gang's fall, could put a significant dent in the Philippine kidnapping industry. However this progress should not be confused with inroads into routing Islamist networks.
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« Reply #64 on: December 29, 2003, 07:47:48 AM »

1221 GMT - PHILIPPINES - Philippine army forces said Dec. 29 they captured two suspected leaders of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group over the weekend near the southern port city of Zamboanga. The two were identified as Alih Malabon, who also calls himself Abu Nidal, and Mohammad Said, whose alias is Commander Kaiser.
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« Reply #65 on: January 01, 2004, 05:57:40 AM »

Item Number:13
Date: 12/31/2003
PHILIPPINES - MANILA DEPORTS AMERICAN TERROR SUSPECTS (DEC 31/VOA)

VOICE OF AMERICA NEWS -- Philippine immigration authorities will deport
two U.S. citizens who are suspected of having ties with local Islamic
militants, reports the Voice of America News. Philippine intelligence monitored communications between the suspects and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group. Manila accused the two men of involvement with a fundraising group that has been linked to the Al-Qaida terrorist network.

Paid Military Periscope subscribers can get more information on Abu
Sayyaf and Al-Qaida, respectively, at:

http://periscope2.ucg.com/ShowGroup.aspx?group_id=249
http://periscope2.ucg.com/ShowGroup.aspx?group_id=240


NY Times 1/1/04

U.S. Hunts Terror Clues in Case of 2 Brothers
By DOUGLAS JEHL

U.S. authorities remain in search of clues that two American brothers who were arrested in the Philippines were in fact providing support to Islamic militants.
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« Reply #66 on: January 09, 2004, 10:49:47 AM »

Item Number:9
Date: 01/09/2004
PHILIPPINES - ARMED FORCES ACQUIRES NEW ASSETS (JAN 09/ABS)

ABS-CBN TODAY -- The Philippines' armed forces is slated to acquire 50
attack helicopters, a squadron of fighter jets and a fleet of navy
gunboats, reports ABS-CBN Today.  The US$18 million upgrade comes as the Philippines seeks to modernize its aging air and naval assets, said Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, vice chief of staff for the armed forces.  Some of the new materiel will come from donor countries, including the United States.
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« Reply #67 on: January 29, 2004, 12:21:23 PM »

1241 GMT -- PHILIPPINES -- Five junior military officers were arrested in
the Philippines for fomenting rebellion against the government, the BBC
reported Jan 29. Earlier, a group of officers appeared on television
accusing the government of President Gloria Arroyo of trying to use the
military to spy on political opponents ahead of May's presidential elections
and demanding the resignation of Defense Minister Eduardo Ermita, who has denied the allegations.
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« Reply #68 on: February 24, 2004, 03:00:42 AM »

1719 GMT - Philippine and American troops will begin war games at various locations in the Philippines on Feb. 23. Designed to improve the armies' joint operation capabilities, Exercise Balikatan 2004 will last until March 7. The war games will include beach landings, night-flying, close-quarter fighting and discussions.
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« Reply #69 on: February 25, 2004, 02:15:57 AM »

Some charts accompanying this piece did not print-- Crafty

Philippines: Popular Politics and Instability in Manila
February 24, 2004   1715 GMT

Summary

The specter of another popular coup is in the air in Manila in the run-up to the May 10 elections, but another government predicated upon anything less than elections could prove disastrous for the Philippines.

Analysis

The Philippine Stock Exchange composite index (PSI) closed down 0.37 percent Feb. 23, and the peso sank to a record low of 56.35 to the U.S. dollar the previous week. Both pieces of bad economic news are a response to fears of political instability in the run-up to elections.

As political forces in Manila jockey for position ahead of May 10 presidential elections, widespread concern is sweeping the Philippines that the next administration will maintain -- or seize -- power outside the electoral process. If upcoming national polls are canceled or overturned, the state risks losing substantial credibility in global markets and the confidence of world powers -- boosting the problem-status of the Philippines in the international arena.

A failed July 2003 mutiny and the tense political atmosphere in Manila are the most recent examples of Philippine woes. Rebel insurgencies by the communist New People's Army (NPA) and various groups in the restive Muslim-populated southern islands long have undermined domestic security. The rebels threaten the security of Philippine citizens and visiting investors, but the country's political leadership and their popular supporters are a much more frequent and powerful destabilizing force confronting the government.

The "People Power," or EDSA, movements that brought down Ferdinand Marcos's authoritarian regime in 1986 and swept current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo into power after hounding Joseph Estrada out of office with corruption allegations in 2001 have become a liability for the Philippines. Regime change through extraconstitutional means is now institutionalized between rival factions and in the public consciousness. Three months before the polls, with the nation fixated on Ferdinand Poe's pedigree as a presidential candidate, Philippine editorials are forecasting the likelihood of another EDSA.

Analysts have good reason to suspect that another upheaval could be on its way. Poe supporters say they will not accept a Supreme Court ruling that disqualifies their candidate. Estrada, a staunch Poe ally, even has gone so far as to caution that a "civil war" would erupt if his fellow movie star were banned from contesting the polls.

Former Defense Secretary Fortunato Abat, a spokesman for the No Elections (No-el) campaign, has called on Arroyo to step down and for Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. to head a caretaker government until the political system is overhauled. Another group, the Citizens Committee on National Crisis, has called on the armed forces to temporarily take over the government.

A massive political disturbance of any kind will mean both opportunity and danger for political forces trying to gain or maintain control of the Philippines' highest office. Opposition candidates could hope to ride into office in the aftermath of mass demonstrations. Arroyo's critics fear that the president, who is trailing in the polls, will declare martial law and/or forestall elections in the face of an emergency.





If for any reason elections do not go forward, the Philippines's reputation as a democracy -- much less a functioning political system -- will take a devastating hit. It already is trailing behind its neighbors, who have risen from the ashes of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Thai, Indonesian and South Korean currencies are all trending upward since bottoming out in 1998, but the peso continues to decline. The same three countries' stock markets also have recouped their losses and continue to rise; the PSI, however, is still just more than half of its 1997 level.




The Philippines' poor economic performance is due to its political instability, putting the country's citizens in the unenviable position of longingly looking at Indonesia's political cohesion and sound economic policies. The Indonesian archipelago is rife with ethnic and religious tensions that test its national unity, and after the fall of President Suharto, Indonesia rapidly devolved into a political and economic morass. The Philippines could find itself in the same situation.

One more major political disturbance will push the Philippines over the edge, sending investors scurrying as Manila's ability to implement policies at home and abroad is questioned.

Manila is in the nascent stages of free trade talks with Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and is rebuilding a strategic alliance with the United States. It is unlikely that these goals will be realized as long as the government is under the constant threat of collapse.
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« Reply #70 on: March 12, 2004, 09:47:32 AM »

Item Number:13
Date: 03/12/2004
PHILIPPINES - COMMUNIST REBELS KILLED (MAR 12/DPA)

DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR -- Government troops killed three communist rebels in a clash in the southern Philippines, reports Deutsche
Presse-Agentur. The fighting began when soldiers encountered about 30 militants in the town of Alegria, located in Surigao del Norte province.
The rebels were killed in the ensuing gunfight, reportedly including the
death of a local commander.
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« Reply #71 on: March 15, 2004, 07:33:05 PM »

Abu Sayyaf: How Fading Militant Groups Fight To Stay Alive
March 15, 2004   1502 GMT

Summary

Abu Sayyaf militants claimed responsibility for a fatal ferry attack Feb. 26. The failing militant Islamist group appears to be taking desperate measures to restore its image as a formidable adversary. The organization is dying: Its leaders are taken out one by one, leaving the group's continued existence and strength in question. The remaining members want to rally support -- and claiming an attack could attract recruits and financial sponsorship from other militant organizations. Abu Sayyaf's pattern of behavior can be seen as a case study of how other militant organizations might react over time as their leaders are removed.

Analysis

Abu Sayyaf militants claimed responsibility for a fatal Philippine ferry attack Feb. 26, but the Philippine government disputes the claim. Whether Abu Sayyaf bombed the ferry -- or simply claimed to be behind the explosion -- the much-diminished militant group appears to be taking desperate measures to restore its image as a formidable adversary.

Recent interrogation of captured Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang, also known as "Commander Robot," revealed splintering within the group caused by power struggles between the leaders of various factions. Andang also mentioned an exchange between several of the Islamist group's leaders and foreigners offering them training in "demolition tactics." If Andang's statements are true, they confirm prior statements by Stratfor and the Philippine government that Abu Sayyaf is disintegrating, but trying to revitalize itself by carrying out attacks -- or claiming attacks. The group might serve as a model for what could happen to other militant organizations as they begin to deteriorate when their upper echelons are crippled or eradicated.

Abu Sayyaf has been in steady decline almost from its inception in the early 1990s, when the group was formed by members who split from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) -- then involved in peace negotiations. The group was led by Abdurajak Janjalani, the first of many Abu Sayyaf chiefs. The group sought to establish an Islamic state in the southern region of the Philippines and employed tactics that included bombings, assassinations and extortion. The group's primary funding source was sympathizers. Abu Sayyaf has claimed affiliation with other groups such as al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, which might have provided financial support. It employed kidnap-for-ransom tactics to raise more money as well, but the profitability of such abductions lured some members away from the original ideological goal of establishing an Islamic regime.

Abu Sayyaf has suffered a series of setbacks as its numerous leaders have been killed or captured in the past several years. Janjalani was killed in December 1998 in a fight with Philippine police. To prove the group was still a powerful force after the loss of its leader, members carried out an attack less than a month later, throwing grenades into a crowd gathered at a shopping center, killing 10 and wounding 74. Janjalani's death, however, resulted in a division between the ideologically motivated and the monetarily motivated members of the group.

The group made another attempt to demonstrate its capabilities in April 2000 by taking 21 hostages from a scuba diving resort on Sipadan Island in Malaysia. The ensuing hostage negotiations further splintered the group: Some members wanted only ransom money; others believed the desire for cash contradicted Abu Sayyaf's Islamist ideology. The kidnapping also drew the attention of the Philippine government and eventually led to intervention by the U.S. military in an effort to eradicate Abu Sayyaf.

Attempts to rejuvenate the group have continued -- even as its leaders are on the run. Andang, who was captured in December 2003 in a government raid, provided details about splinter groups and the deterioration of Abu Sayyaf's leadership. He indicated that the Sulu-based segment of Abu Sayyaf is headed by Jumdail Gumbahali, or "Dr. Abu," and does not acknowledge any leadership by Khaddafi Janjalani, the brother of the organization's founding leader. Another division appeared between Janjalani and Hamsiraji Sali in a dispute over ransom money. In addition, military forces continue to kill and capture Abu Sayyaf members. Five militants were killed and several injured in a clash with soldiers on the island of Jolo on March 2. Andang said that only 300 members remain in the Sulu-based group. Other Abu Sayyaf members have fled with Janjalani out of fear of a U.S. offensive. Without clear leadership and mission, the shrinking organization appears to be in disarray.

The remaining members must develop a more unified and ideologically driven nucleus if they are going to regroup successfully. Abu Sayyaf must consider operations that offer a high return for a small investment, along with high-impact attack plans that can be carried out with few members. With the training in explosives and combat reported by Andang, such an attack could include a suicide bomber on a crowded ferry.

A spectacular attack -- or even claiming a spectacular attack -- would reaffirm the group's existence and indicate that they remain a force to be dealt with. Claiming responsibility for the February ferry attack is indicative of the group's attempt to portray itself as "not dead yet." Although the Philippine government originally downplayed the claim, such an attack is feasible. The alleged suicide bomber was listed on the passenger manifest.

Regardless, Abu Sayyaf has sent the message that it is alive and well to its enemies and potential friends. The March 5 arrest of an Abu Sayyaf member in the northern Philippines could give further credence to the group's efforts to resurface. In a search of the suspect's van, police found more than 20 rifle grenades, a number of firearms, mine parts and a couple of pounds of C4 explosive.

Because of Abu Sayyaf's ties to al Qaeda, the ferry attack claim might advertise to potential sponsors that the group is worth a financial investment in order to achieve the jihadist goals of Islamist extremist groups. Money trickling in to Abu Sayyaf could help finance further operations, perhaps even in tandem with other organizations. This also could engender further cooperative training operations.

Abu Sayyaf wants to attract new recruits to boost its numbers and bring in younger members. Also it might be able to draw on dissidents from the MILF, which is negotiating with the government; Abu Sayyaf splintered off during similar talks with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Abu Sayyaf is under pressure to prove it is not extinct. Claiming responsibility for events that could be perceived as attacks and structuring attacks for greater impact with fewer resources are the only ways to prove the group is still breathing. Abu Sayyaf's attempts at self-resuscitation could provide a case study for similar militant organizations -- such as al Qaeda -- that likely will follow as leaders are captured or killed, leaving the groups without direction.

Al Qaeda is under similar pressure to show it is still alive and well, especially in light of recent statements by the Bush administration that the capture of Osama bin Laden might be close at hand. Al Qaeda's patterns of attack have been to carry out significant strikes every few years with smaller attacks in the interim. Al Qaeda also might claim an attack that it did not perpetrate -- or one that was carried out by another group with only marginal al Qaeda affiliation. The recent claims of responsibility for the train bombings in Madrid by at least two Islamist militant groups reinforce this idea. Watching the slow deaths of groups like Abu Sayyaf might be the only way we will understand when other groups such as al Qaeda finally have been silenced for good -- and what we might expect from them as they fight to stay alive.
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« Reply #72 on: March 24, 2004, 05:35:34 AM »

Philippines: ID Cards For Muslims
March 23, 2004   2003 GMT

The Philippine government is supporting 30 leaders of Muslim communities in Manila who volunteered to distribute identification cards in Muslim areas of the city, the Philippine Inquirer News Service reported March 23. Of the city's 12 million people, nearly 800,000 are Muslim, most living in poor and crowded neighborhoods that draw criminals and militants fleeing fighting in the southern islands. In recent years, the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) Islamist groups have targeted Manila. The proposed ID card system would reportedly be modeled on an ID card system already in place at Manila's Golden Mosque -- the largest mosque in the city -- which issues cards to residents and visitors in order to screen for potential troublemakers. The new ID system is expected to be implemented by the end of March.
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« Reply #73 on: March 30, 2004, 08:23:21 AM »

1239 GMT -- PHILIPPINES -- Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said March 30 that government security forces seized 80 pounds of TNT and arrested four people who are believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group. Arroyo said the men planned to carry out Madrid-style bomb attacks against trains and shopping centers in the capital city of Manila. However, other government officials said the only evidence they had of any plans to carry out such attacks reportedly had come from some of the detained suspects during interrogation.
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« Reply #74 on: May 28, 2004, 10:51:24 PM »

Philippines: Abu Sayyaf's Tactical Alliance
May 28, 2004   2026 GMT

Summary

Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf has suffered significant attrition and ideological rifts in recent years, but could be rejuvenating itself once again with a renewed alliance with Jemaah Islamiyah and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Analysis

Hajder Sailani (alias Akmad Hayas), a ranking member of Abu Sayyaf, was captured by the Philippine military in Zamboanga city on May 28. The Philippine security apparatus is looking for a "death squad" formed by members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). While several Abu Sayyaf members have been killed or captured in recent years, the group appears to be revitalizing itself <a href="Story.neo?storyId=229880">again[/url] with renewed support from JI and the MILF.

Sailani was a close aide of the late Abu Sayyaf founding member Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani and was involved in operations in the southern island of Basilan until his arrest on charges of kidnapping. Sailani's presence in Zamboanga coincides with a government hunt for militants believed to be planning attacks in and near the city.

The Philippine military warned during the week of May 22 that JI, Abu Sayyaf and the MILF have merged and are planning attacks in Zamboanga and around the southern Philippines. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Renoir Pascua said Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani and two members of JI are suspected of masterminding the group. The death squad reportedly comprises gunmen and bombers aged 15 to 25 years, who reportedly have been well-trained by foreign militants.

An alliance between the groups is not a major logistical or political undertaking. There are plenty of ties among the MILF, Abu Sayyaf and JI. Abu Sayyaf started as a MILF splinter group, and JI has been known to seek refuge and train in the southern Philippine Islands with both indigenous groups.

The Philippine government has made similar claims of cooperation between these groups. Manila frequently charges that the MILF is cooperating with JI and Abu Sayyaf to pressure the Moro rebels in an attempts to negotiate a <a href="Story.neo?storyId=228138">peace accord[/url] with them. The majority of MILF leadership probably has distanced itself from JI and Abu Sayyaf, but radical, low-ranking rebel leaders maintain ties with the groups.

Coordination among these groups is not usually a strategic decision by the top commanders, but some tactical cooperation for specific objectives such as a major attack or series of attacks. If such a tactical alliance has formed and an immediate offensive is planned, it would demonstrate that Abu Sayyaf is succeeding in rejuvenating its battered force that has been split by ideological rifts.

Abu Sayyaf's primary ideologies and goals have been undermined by commanders more interested in profitable kidnap-for-ransom operations than establishing an independent Islamic nation in the southern Philippines. The February 26 Manila <a href="Story.neo?storyId=229073">ferry bombing[/url] claimed by Abu Sayyaf could mark the revival of the group. Al Qaeda and its Southeast Asian arm, the JI, likely cut some of its funding and support to Abu Sayyaf while the group appeared distracted and ineffectual. After the ferry attack, Abu Sayyaf could have regenerated interest by foreign sponsors.

The group's ranks have declined due to attrition and likely have remained thin because potential recruits have seen the group as weak and dying. Its upswing in recruitment is likely caused by its alliance with the other groups. The MILF's negotiations with Manila will restart now that the Philippine presidential elections have passed, and talks will no longer be clouded by political uncertainties in Manila during an election year. Senior MILF leaders appear amenable to a deal similar to the one cut by Moro National Liberation Front in 1996. As momentum for peace accord builds, hardcore rebels will abandon the MILF for more radical groups such as Abu Sayyaf and JI.
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« Reply #75 on: June 12, 2004, 12:47:36 AM »

Abu Sayyaf and the Strait of Malacca
June 11, 2004   2019 GMT

Summary

Abu Sayyaf threats against passenger ferries in the Philippines raise the security threat across the region because of the group's contacts and possible cooperation with Jemaah Islamiyah.

Analysis

Philippine security forces arrested a man in Manila on June 10 suspected of attempting to put explosive materials aboard a ship headed for Zamboanga City. Authorities believe the suspect was linked to Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamist group involved in attacks against Philippine ferries. Abu Sayyaf is loosely affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and al Qaeda, and personnel and tactics employed in attacks in the Philippines could be transferred to the strategically critical Strait of Malacca.

The explosives cache -- 30,000 nonelectric blasting caps, a detonating cord nearly a mile long and 2.4 miles of timing fuse -- was found by a bomb-sniffing dog. The materials could have been part of a planned attack or merely transported for future use, but their seizure follows at least one possible attack against a Philippine ferry and another foiled attack.

The Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for an explosion and fire on a Manila ferry Feb. 26 that killed more than 100 people. Philippine authorities are still investigating the case and have not ruled the ferry blast an attack. The Philippine military, however, said in late April it uncovered a plot to bomb ferries in Mindanao after arresting four Muslim extremists. One of the militants in custody allegedly said the explosion on the Manila ferry occurred after he stuffed TNT into a television set he placed aboard the ship. At the end of May, security forces seized homemade bombs on the southern island of Jolo, saying they prevented an attack on a ferry bound for Zamboanga.

Because the Abu Sayyaf is not an isolated group but jointly trains with the JI, which extends across Southeast Asia, its tactics and personnel can be transferred to other areas. JI and Abu Sayyaf agents working together could employ tactics similar to those used in the Philippines to attack ferries leaving ports in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. But the threat is not limited to ferry passengers in the region. The danger to the Strait of Malacca, one the world's most vital waterways, is also increased.

The 500-mile strait between Malaysia and Indonesia is the major shipping artery between the Middle East and East Asia. As many as 1,000 ships pass through it every week -- including tankers carrying approximately 80 percent of Japan's oil supply and nearly 40 percent of China's oil supply.

Attacking a ferry, or even a handful of ferries, probably would not severely interrupt shipping in the deepwater strait, but the political and economic shock from such an attack would be substantial. World oil prices already have risen after militant attacks in Saudi Arabia -- the world's largest oil supplier. If ferries in the strait were targeted, a similar risk premium would be placed on oil shipments.

But ferries would not necessarily be the only targets. Tactics similar to those used for smuggling explosives onto ferries could be used to place a bomb on a large container ship or tanker. Scuttling such a vessel in one of the narrowest sections of the strait -- only 1.5 miles wide at its narrowest point -- could seriously interrupt shipments.
 
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« Reply #76 on: July 01, 2004, 03:17:05 AM »

Philippines: MILF Peace Talks on Again
June 30, 2004
Summary


After President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's re-election, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are ready to restart peace talks. A large portion of the Moro rebels could be ready to end the long-standing insurrection; however, movement toward an accord could spark more violence, while radical members of MILF reject peace.


Analysis


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said June 28 the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in hunting militant Islamist groups Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf. The announcement comes while negotiators from the government and MILF are poised to resume stalled peace talks, and U.S. forces prepare to conduct joint exercises with Philippine troops in Mindanao.


A combination of battle fatigue and U.S. intervention in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao appears to be prompting a large portion of the Moro rebels to cut a peace deal with Manila. Over the next few months, fighting will likely erupt between divergent MILF factions while radical groups that reject peace splinter from the main body of the group.


Now that the presidential elections have passed and Arroyo's government is reasonably secure, political forces in Mindanao are again moving toward a peace deal. The government and MILF are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur in early August to reopen peace talks interrupted by the political contest in Manila.


MILF has sent a series of positive signals in the past week. Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu congratulated Arroyo on June 24 for winning the election, saying, "We remain optimistic that a peace agreement will be reached under her administration." The Moro rebels are backing up their rhetoric with action, reportedly using intelligence provided by Manila to find JI members among the rebels. Philippine security officials estimate that up to 40 JI members are in Mindanao training members of MILF and Abu Sayyaf.


MILF's cooperation with Manila has won it praise from the government. Arroyo said June 29 that conflict with the Moro rebels "is at an all-time low" following a cease-fire in July 2003.


The statements by Arroyo and the rebels are more than just political niceties before they meet at the negotiating table. MILF appears battle weary and ready to accept an exchange of autonomy for a peace agreement; the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) accepted a similar deal in 1996.


MILF's move to throw in the towel is partially prompted by the U.S. involvement in Mindanao, which has become a front in the U.S. war against Islamist groups. The United States is continuing to support Philippine military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, while using a mixture of economic incentives and military threats -- including U.S. assistance for the AFP if fighting resumes, or development aid once an accord is reached -- to push MILF into a peace deal. By supporting the Philippine military and co-opting MILF, the United States hopes to deny the southern Philippines to militant groups, which use the region as a training ground and base of operations.


There likely will be a dramatic increase in violence in Mindanao when MILF moves to negotiate a peace deal and immediately after any deal is cut.


Small radical factions within MILF probably will reject peace and splinter off into new militant groups or join JI and the Abu Sayyaf. There also will be violent infighting among the rebels as the MILF high command works with Manila to purge its ranks. In addition, some rejectionists within MILF will likely attempt to derail peace talks through numerous small-scale attacks.

Copyrights 2004 - Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
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« Reply #77 on: August 09, 2004, 09:29:58 AM »

Item Number:13
Date: 08/09/2004
PHILIPPINES - 17 KILLED IN ACTION WITH REBEL FORCES (AUG 09/ABS)

ABS-CBN -- The Philippines military launched a preemptive strike late
last week against a group of Maoist rebels in the southern province of
Agusan del Norte, reports ABS-CBN (Philippines).


Two platoons from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st and 2nd Reconnaissance
companies overran a camp of the New People's Army. The group was planning a strike on the town of Nasipit, according to intelligence sources.


Twelve rebels and five soldiers died in the fighting, with another 13
troops wounded.
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« Reply #78 on: August 09, 2004, 11:23:45 PM »

Summary


Maneuvers by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao could be an attempt to strengthen the group's hand before peace talks restart later in the month -- or they could mark the beginning of the rebels' final fracturing before a peace agreement is reached.


Analysis


Rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are massing near a small town on the restive southern Philippine island of Mindanao, ABS-CBN News reports. The maneuvers come a month after the rebels reportedly received a large shipment of weapons -- and as 150 U.S. soldiers are conducting joint exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the island.


The MILF's maneuvers could be nothing more than a show of force during ongoing peace negotiations with Manila. However, they also could be the harbinger of something more ominous: The rebel group could be fracturing as headway is made toward a peace deal with Manila, and the gathering could be the beginning of an offensive by those who would reject a peace agreement.


An unspecified number of Moro rebels reportedly are massing near the town of Tungawan, in Zamboanga Sibugay province. In response, the AFP's Southern Command is blocking the exit and entry routes to neighboring Zamboanga City and has sent reinforcements to soldiers already stationed there.


The rebel buildup comes after local media, quoting unidentified government and military sources, reported that the MILF received 1,190 automatic rifles and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition in two shipments that arrived in Sultan Kudarat in early July. The AFP has downplayed the report, and the MILF has categorically denied receiving any new weapons.


The AFP is engaged in joint exercises with U.S. troops near the city of Carmen, in North Cotabato province -- in the heart of MILF operational territory. The rebels undoubtedly take the location of the exercises as a warning that should talks fail, the government's next offensive against the rebels will be backed by Washington. The alleged arms shipment and the massing of rebels could be MILF's attempt to bolster its position and negotiate with Manila from a position of strength.

Manila and the rebels have been cooperating and seem to be working toward some middle ground. Government officials and MILF delegates are expected to restart talks this month in Kuala Lumpur. Manila already has met one key rebel demand: redeploying AFP forces from the former MILF stronghold of Buliok Complex. The government also is preparing to drop the charges against nearly 100 MILF leaders and soldiers stemming from bombings in Davao City in 2003.

Although progress is being made, the MILF will want to keep a strong position in order to wrest the best possible terms for a peace deal from Manila. In order to remain strong, it would need to gather its forces and maintain supplies.


However, another scenario is equally plausible. A number of MILF leaders -- especially younger and more ideologically fervent commanders -- likely will reject a peace deal with Manila and will continue to fight for an independent Moro state. These rejectionists might already be preparing for the next phase of the long insurrection in Mindanao by massing strength and securing equipment.

If this is the case, the AFP might decide to nip the problem in the bud and take out those rebel factions before they are well organized. This could even happen with the cooperation of MILF central command. If fighting suddenly erupts near Tungawan, this will probably be the reason.

Copyrights 2004 - Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
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« Reply #79 on: August 13, 2004, 10:03:28 PM »

Philippines: 17 Sentenced To Die
August 13, 2004
Seventeen members of Abu Sayyaf were sentenced to death in Manila on Aug. 13 for their roles in a series of kidnappings and murders in 2001. Four of the 17 are still at large. The militants were charged in the kidnapping and murder of three U.S. citizens and a group of Filipino resort workers from the Dos Palmas resort on the island of Palawan. The Dos Palmas incident was one of a series of kidnappings the group carried out on the Mindinao islands.

Copyrights 2004 - Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
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« Reply #80 on: August 17, 2004, 03:36:57 AM »

Philippines' Moro Rebels: Spreading the Word About Peace
August 16, 2004
Summary


Leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are planning a massive information campaign in an effort to bring rank-and-file members on board for the ongoing peace process with the Philippine government. The campaign could mark the final stage of the insurrection on the southern island of Mindanao.


Analysis


The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) based on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao will conduct a massive information campaign to educate its 12,000 members about the ongoing peace process with Manila.


Rebel chiefs expect division in the ranks over the peace process and are trying to mitigate dissention before it boils over. This is one of the final steps before the MILF cuts a peace deal with the government -- and small bands of guerrillas break off to continue fighting for an independent Moro state.


The MILF will launch this campaign in September, just after a new round of peace talks with the government slated to begin in Malaysia in late August. The campaign, led by MILF peace negotiators, is expected to include some of the largest gatherings of MILF members in recent years.


The primary reason for the effort is that it allows the MILF leadership to get its message directly to the rank and file, since some guerrillas are based in remote areas far from rebel headquarters. This direct approach also allows the leadership to bypass regional commanders who might not be fully informed, or who might intentionally distort information or withhold it from the guerrillas under their command. Stratfor forecast that pieces of the MILF can be expected to break off when the rebels reach a peace accord with Manila. This effort, then, is the rebel leaders' last chance to clarify their position and close ranks before attempting to end the insurgency.


Rebel leaders are well aware that their regional commanders might not be fully on board the peace process. Some MILF commanders are accused of providing shelter to Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf militants within their camps. The information sessions likely will be used to definitively assess who is and is not "on board." After this assessment, MILF leaders will either take care of the problem internally or provide the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the adequate intelligence to get the job done.


The sessions also will demonstrate the rebels' good faith while negotiations continue. Rebels who reject a peace deal likely will attempt to derail the process, and the leadership will want to distance themselves from such elements.


The MILF insurrection appears to be entering its final stages. The rebel leadership is making internal and external preparations to reach a deal with Manila. All that remains to be seen is how extensive division runs within the rebel group.
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« Reply #81 on: August 23, 2004, 11:56:21 PM »

Philippines: Will Peace Talks Get Back on Track?
August 23, 2004
Summary


Peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government have been postponed after a clash between government and rebel forces. More clashes will occur in the near future as some rebel commanders attempt to derail the peace process.


Analysis


A new round of peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippines, which was set to begin this week at the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, was postponed again. The postponement comes after a soldier and two MILF fighters were killed in a firefight in the southern province of Maguindanao of the island of Mindanao on Aug. 17.


Stratfor forecast that cease-fire violations and infighting among rebels would likely occur as MILF and Manila draw closer to finalizing peace talks, and that some rebels opposed to ending the conflict would attempt to derail the process. The Maguindanao fight -- which was not the first time Philippine troops and rebels have clashed since a May 2002 cease-fire -- could have simply been a misunderstanding. However, timing suggests it could be more than that. Some local MILF commanders could be attempting to disrupt negotiations or preparing to split from MILF and possibly are testing the Philippine military and the rebel leadership.


The firefight reportedly was sparked by a family feud. Local militia forces killed two men suspected of stealing cattle. MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said that when the families attempted to recover the bodies of the two men, the militia commander prevented them from doing so. The families then called on their relatives in MILF to intervene. When the rebels arrived, the local militia commander sought support from government troops and rebels opened fire on soldiers after supposedly mistaking them for the militia. Kabalu said the clash with the militia was part of an ongoing feud between the militia commander and a prominent local family.


Philippine news Web site INQ7.net said Kabalu called for a suspension of negotiations. However, Kabalu said Aug. 23 the suspension of talks came at the request of the Malaysian government -- which will host the event -- not the MILF. In either case, the rebels will use the time to ascertain what exactly happened to prompt the cease-fire violation and take measures to prevent further incidents.


Despite the clash between the government and rebel forces, both sides remain optimistic about peace talks. Kabalu reiterated MILF's resolve to end conflict with government troops through talks, and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the government will "continue to forge peace in Mindanao" through talks with the rebels.


The incident in Maguindanao demonstrates how shaky peace negotiations can be. Other clashes will likely occur in the near future. So far, the Philippine government and military have restrained themselves; however, more clashes could prompt them to take action. MILF leaders will have to convince Manila they can handle rogue rebel commanders -- which will not be easy since many officials believe the current cease-fire is nothing more than an opportunity for the rebels to regroup and rearm.
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« Reply #82 on: July 08, 2006, 12:01:41 PM »

Bohol is becoming an ecotourism spot. The island has resorts that are attracting nature lovers from all over.

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By AUSTIN CONSIDINE
Published: July 9, 2006
NOBODY is certain why the explorer Magellan went out of his way to visit the Philippines. Before he could record his memoirs, he was killed on the tiny island of Mactan in 1521.

Skip to next paragraph
 
The New York Times
One hopes Magellan also made it to Bohol, a 60-mile-wide island near the southern end of the Philippine archipelago, not far from where he died. Indeed, with its white sand beaches, the unspoiled jungles of the Loboc river valley, and the breathtaking Chocolate Hills, one imagines that things haven't changed all that much.

But that may not last. Over the last five years, this lush island ? reachable by ferry from Cebu City (about 90 minutes) and domestic flights ? has been grooming itself as a major ecotourism destination, with several new resorts that are beginning to attract snorkelers, divers and nature lovers.

The new resorts are clustered along Alona Beach, a spit of sparkling white sand surrounded by crystal-blue waters and a colorful coral shelf. At the high end is Alona Palm Beach (Alona Beach, Tawala, 63-38-502-9141, www.alonapalmbeach.com), a secluded 12-villa resort with a 4,800-square-foot pool that is separated from the beach by a coconut palm grove. Doubles start at $120 in low season, $150 in high season.

For those who don't need satellite television, there are still plenty of simple beachfront lodges like Isis Bungalows (Alona Beach, 63-38-502-9292, www.isisbungalows.com). Each room has its own terrace facing the sea, and a modestly priced restaurant serves Filipino dishes like spicy beef caldereta right on the beach. Rooms start at $38.

But even when the new resorts are filled to capacity, the beaches never feel crowded. Maybe that's because everyone is in the water. A spectacular coral shelf, which plunges 250 feet in some spots, is about 45 minutes by boat from Alona Beach. Snorkelers can view clown fish, barracudas and other species at the shelf's shallower plateaus.

Diving gear and classes are available all over Alona Beach. One outfitter is Philippine Islands Divers (Alona Beach, Danao, 63-918-335-0842, www.phildivers.com), which offers diving trips starting at $22 for a descent. Snorkel equipment, on the other hand, can be rented from locals, who paddle out to your boat (about 200 pesos, or $3.80, at 55 pesos to the dollar). But tread carefully: the reef is recovering from decades of destructive fishing practices.

Bohol is also excellent for watching dolphins. Some resorts offer their own guided tours, but you can also hire a captain on the beach for as little as 450 pesos.

After exploring the coastline, head inland for the thick jungles, home to the tarsier, a tiny, rare and endangered primate. Nuts Huts Resort (63-920-846-9162, www.groove-events.be/nutshuts), an affordable ecolodge, is located upriver from Loboc City. Even if you don't spend the night, stop by for the fresh food and stunning view from its dining terrace. Doubles start at 450 pesos, dormitory beds from 200 pesos.

No trip to Bohol, however, is complete without visiting the Chocolate Hills. One glimpse is enough to see why: It's a landscape as distinctive as the Grand Canyon or the Cliffs of Moher.

Go during the late afternoon and watch the sun set over more than 1,200 gumdrop-shaped hills, each formed by eons of coral buildup and erosion. Squint your eyes when the wind rustles their brown, grassy surfaces. You'll swear they are floating.
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« Reply #83 on: September 25, 2007, 10:38:54 AM »

Philippine Fly-Over
By GREG RUSHFORD
September 25, 2007

CLARK FIELD, Philippines -- The economic potential of the Philippines -- and all the reasons it has yet to live up to that potential -- come sharply into focus as soon as a visitor lands. Literally. With Manila's current major international air terminal, some 50 miles to the city's south, already too congested for serious expansion, the battle over the future of the Philippines' next premier international air gateway has become a microcosm of all that the country could be, and all that's holding it back.

 
Still widely known as "Clark Field," the old name from its days as an American military airbase, the airport-in-waiting is now officially the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, in honor of the former Philippine president and father of current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. And Ms. Arroyo has been playing the crucial, and often conflicted, role in determining the airport's future.

Clark and its surrounding community in the province of Pampanga have never been rich. In its heyday during the Cold War, Clark Air Base bustled with energy as a major U.S. listening post and home of the 13th U.S. Air Force. But in June 1991, the U.S. Air Force, under fierce attack from nationalist forces in the Philippine Senate, finally flew out, leaving Clark covered in the volcanic ashes spewed out by nearby Mt. Pinatubo. Clark immediately fell upon hard times. Looters stripped the base clean, down to the toilet lids.

Things began to change in January 2006, when Ms. Arroyo -- responding to complaints from the Pampanga business community that too many regulations from Manila were holding back Clark's potential -- signed an executive order unilaterally proclaiming open skies. The move unleashed the forces of economic liberalization at Clark by allowing foreign airlines to fly in hundreds of thousands of tourists from Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and as far away as Dubai. It also opened the door to all the trade that could be conducted via the cargo holds of those planes. The formerly sleepy Clark, which processed fewer than 50,000 passengers three years ago, took off, bringing in nearly 500,000 last year. And prices are dropping. Singapore's Tiger Airways has been offering flights from Macau to Clark for $9.99.

The benefits aren't so much trickling into the local economy as pouring. More than 50,000 Filipinos now work here, some 10,000 more than were employed when the Americans ran the place. More jobs are coming as foreign companies find it easier and cheaper to move people and goods in and out.

Texas Instruments is putting in a billion-dollar semiconductor plant. The United Parcel Service has made Clark a regional hub. Yokohama Tire Philippines is making a $100 million expansion, and is exporting tires from Clark all around the world. Shoemart, the big Philippine retail giant, has moved in, as has Jollibee's, the Philippine answer to McDonald's (which also serves the nearby community). Other foreign and Philippine entrepreneurs are opening up more businesses to cater to the workers and tourists: hotels, restaurants and so on.

But the growth remains fragile, and will come to a halt if Ms. Arroyo's government insists upon bringing Clark's passenger traffic back to a trickle. Which, alarmingly, is just what the government has tried to do. In August 2006, just eight months after the initial liberalization, Ms. Arroyo bowed to pressures from domestic protectionist cronies -- the most well-known of whom is billionaire Lucio Tan, the owner of Philippine Airlines -- and issued a revised executive order aimed at slowing down the foreign airline traffic. While the numbers for arriving passengers were still up some 35% in the first quarter of this year, it is clear that Clark's ambitions to become the Philippines' premier gateway have been seriously threatened.

Citing "the continued uncertainty regarding the regulatory situation at Clark," Tiger Airways announced on March 23 that it would be reducing its flight frequency from Singapore to Clark to nine weekly flights from 14. As Clark spokesman Arnel San Pedro told me, local business leaders are outraged that the national government would "refuse to prosper because of the subservience of some greedy people to the personal interests of 'Manila's Imperial Dragons.'"

Ms. Arroyo's reversal was especially galling because Mr. Tan -- the archetypal "imperial dragon" -- is such a terrible well from which to draw economic advice. He first got really rich in the 1970s, thanks to various tax breaks and favors bestowed by former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos. Understandably, the Chinese-born tycoon takes a dim view of cuttthroat market-oriented competition from foreign-run budget airlines. His critics revile him as the personification of what's wrong with the Philippine economy.

But Mr. Tan's current ally in the presidential palace, Ms. Arroyo, is more forgiving. In 2002, the president honored him for his "lifetime" of achievements in "helping build the nation." Numerous press reports from Manila have it that Mr. Tan has been among Ms. Arroyo's most generous sources of campaign financing; presidential press secretary Ignacio Bunye declines comment.

Now Ms. Arroyo is being pressed by a deeply concerned Clark business community that believes that Mr. Tan's influence upon the Arroyo administration is pulling the economic ladder out from under them. The airport's energetic chief executive, Victor Jose Luciano, made an impassioned presentation last month to Ms. Arroyo and her cabinet urging the president to issue a third executive order undoing the damage she created with her second one back in August 2006.

Ms. Arroyo holds a doctorate in economics, so she presumably understands that her first instincts to open the Philippine skies were the right ones. Her method may be problematic, though. When she moved to slow down the Philippines' open skies prospects last year, Ms. Arroyo's public rationale was that instead of unilateral liberalization, the Philippines would negotiate with foreign governments for increased access to their airports in return. Indeed, the Arroyo administration has recently concluded negotiating a major expansion of passenger landings for flights between the Philippines and South Korea.

But behind the scenes, Mr. Tan seems to dominate the process. A leaked copy of the Aug. 9, 2007, minutes of the Philippine government's official air negotiating panel shows that nine of the 23 members aren't government officials, but work for Mr. Tan's PAL and two other Tan-owned airline and cargo operations. Cebu Pacific, another domestic carrier that is following Mr. Tan's anti-open skies lead, has another two seats.

Since in practice the Philippine airline negotiating body seeks unanimous consent to schedule negotiations with foreign airlines, Mr. Tan effectively has veto power -- and last month's minutes make clear that PAL sees "no immediate need" for urgency in scheduling many more air talks. Supporters of open skies report that the last air talks the Philippine government held with Macau were in 2001, that similar negotiations with Hong Kong last occurred in 1996, and in 1995 for Malaysia and Thailand.

From PAL's perspective, why hurry? Philippine airline industry sources who ask not to be identified report that Mr. Tan's airline has found a wonderful way to profit from current restrictions. When passenger quotas assigned by the Philippine authorities to, say, Macau, or Hong Kong, or Dubai, have been filled, the Philippine government has given expanded entitlements to fly more passengers to PAL, which turns around and "rents" those entitlements to foreign carriers. While the details of such deals remain confidential, credible industry insiders report that Dubai is paying PAL at least $1 million a year in passenger rents. Not that this money is "free," of course: The foreign carriers pass the extra expense on to fliers -- many of whom are hard-pressed Philippine overseas workers -- in the form of pricier tickets. Mr. Tan, who declined persistent requests to be interviewed for this column, is turning a profit for PAL without flying his own airplanes.

The question now is whether Ms. Arroyo will be able to summon the political courage to stop him from doing it. She might reflect on some history. When the airport's namesake, her father -- an economic reformer -- was elected in 1961, the Philippines boasted the second-largest economy in Asia, second only to Japan. When Ferdinand Marcos won election four years later, he went on to help enrich his cronies while crippling the economy with an array of protectionist schemes. With a stroke of her presidential pen, Ms. Arroyo could not only re-open Philippine skies to economic development, she could also prove that "Philippine prosperity" doesn't have to be an oxymoron.

Mr. Rushford is editor of The Rushford Report, an online journal that follows the politics of international trade and diplomacy.

WSJ
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« Reply #84 on: September 27, 2007, 08:30:13 AM »

PHILIPPINES: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is planning to offer an unconditional pardon to her ousted predecessor Joseph Estrada. Estrada, 70, previously said he would not accept a pardon if it meant admitting guilt. The conditions of the pardon will be settled between Arroyo's interior minister and Estrada. Arroyo's chief legal advisor said the move was to ease political tensions in the country; the long enmity between Arroyo and Estrada has been the source of many coup rumors.

stratfor
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« Reply #85 on: October 19, 2007, 11:08:33 AM »

Eight dead in Philippines blast


At least eight people have died after a suspected bomb attack in the Philippine capital, Manila.
The lunchtime blast shattered windows and sent debris crashing onto cars at the Glorietta shopping complex.
More than 100 people were hurt in the explosion, in the city's Makati business district.
Police initially believed the cause was an exploding gas cylinder, but experts and officials later said it was almost certainly a bomb attack.
President Gloria Arroyo said the city's emergency services were on high alert, and 2,000 extra personnel had been drafted in "to prevent a similar occurrence".
"We assure everyone that a full-blown investigation is now under way," she said on local TV.
Bomb theory
The blast caused extensive damage to the shopping centre. Concrete blocks and planks fell from the roof and cars outside the mall were covered with debris.


"It left a deep crater at the foot of the escalator," said Charlie Nepomuceno, an employee at the Glorietta complex.
"It also ripped open the roof of the building. I saw a man thrown on to the roof who had lost a leg," he told Reuters.
National police chief Avelino Razon said he believed a bomb had caused the explosion.
"Beyond that we can't say anything else yet because we are still investigating," he told AFP news agency.
Militants have targeted the Philippine capital in the past.
In 2004, more than 100 people died when Islamic militants from the Abu Sayyaf group - who are battling the military in the south of the country - blew up a passenger ferry in the capital.
And in February 2005, four people died in a bomb attack on a Manila bus.       
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« Reply #86 on: November 22, 2007, 05:32:20 AM »

Woof All:

This is an area about which I know next to nothing, so please understand that my posting this article is meant only to offer it for consideration and in encouragement of knowledgeable persons here to comment, either pro or con.

TAC,
CD
========================

A Precarious Peace
By ZACHARY ABUZA
November 22, 2007
WSJ

Last week saw an important breakthrough in the talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, one of two groups fighting for an autonomous Muslim homeland. While details of the draft agreement are still vague, one thing's for sure: for this deal to work, both Manila and the MILF will have to get serious about good governance. If they don't, the southern region could once again descend into violence. And spoilers on all sides abound.

The two sides had been deadlocked for 14 months over the thorny issue of "ancestral domain" -- the territory that will be included in the new autonomous body known as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. That body, according to the draft agreement, will assume all local governmental functions for the Moro, the Philippines' largest Muslim ethnic group. While the details are yet to be worked out, Manila would retain control of national issues that affect the region, like defense and monetary policy.

Although the agreement is a step forward, it is far from a comprehensive consensus. The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity overlaps with the five provinces governed under the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, which established in 1996 by the government's peace treaty with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), another group fighting for an independent homeland. It is now unclear whether the Mindanao autonomous region will be dissolved or superceded by the new entity.

The MNLF already seems dead set against a compromise. Earlier this month, its chairman, Nur Misuari, warned the government not to sign a peace agreement with the MILF. According to the MNLF, the 1996 peace deal is the "final agreement" and it's the MNLF who are the legitimate representatives of the Bangsamoro people. It's now up to both the Philippine government to include the MNLF in the drafting of a New Organic Charter (the BJE's constitution) and help both sides create a common platform for the talks and to establish principles for governance of the area, which is largely located on Mindanao island.

This may be too much to expect from Manila, given the government's track record. The Philippine Congress watered down the 1996 agreement and many provisions of the agreement were never implemented. Assuming that the recent MILF agreement leads to the formal completion of a final peace agreement in 2008, it will still have to be ratified by the Senate, which could be a protracted fight. Congress will also have to pass a host of laws to implement the agreement. The MNLF or sympathetic politicians could file court cases challenging the agreement.

Then there's the problem of corruption. The United States has pledged nearly $50 million to Mindanao upon the conclusion of a peace process. Japan, Canada and the European Union have all pledged significant aid programs, as have the major multilateral financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. But the MILF's ability to quickly and efficiently absorb the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been pledged is questionable. A master plan for sustainable economic growth and natural resource exploitation must be drawn up immediately.

If there's a bright spot here, it's that the existing draft agreement calls for a referendum for independence to be held in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in 2030. This is the Bangsamoro's chance to secure a homeland. But to be successful, their leaders must govern fairly, transparently and honestly; while bringing broad-based economic development. The MILF does not have extensive experience in governance, administration and providing social services. They are all too aware that their pool of human resources is thin. "Nation-building is far more difficult than running a revolutionary organization," the MILF's lead negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, acknowledged last Thursday.

If the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity cannot overcome the obstacles of poor governance, impunity and corruption that have been the hallmarks of most Philippine governments, the Moro will lose this opportunity. Independence could be won, not through war, but through good governance. Now that would be a revolution.

Mr. Abuza is professor of political science at Simmons College, Boston, and the author of "Political Islam and Violence in Indonesia" (Routledge, 2006).
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« Reply #87 on: December 18, 2007, 12:37:22 PM »

Philippine Islamist 'shot dead'

Philippine troops have killed a leading Islamist militant wanted by the US after raiding his safe house in the south of the country, officials say. Mobin Abdurajak, said to be a senior leader in the Abu Sayyaf group, was wanted for the abduction in 2000 of 21 people from a Malaysian resort. Regional officials said he died in a shootout when marines swooped on his hideout in the island of Tawi-Tawi. The United States had offered $20,000 (£9,900) for his arrest. Mobin Abdurajak was a brother-in-law of Abu Sayyaf chief Khadaffy Janjalani, who was killed in a clash with Philippine troops last year. "The neutralisation of Abdurajak is part of our campaign to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf terrorists," regional navy chief Emilio Marayag said, according to the Reuters news agency. In the mainly Catholic Philippines, Abu Sayyaf is the most notorious of several active Muslim rebel groups. Last week, 14 of its members were jailed for life for abducting 20 people from a luxury beach resort in the western Philippines in 2001. Three of the victims, including an American, were decapitated.       
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« Reply #88 on: May 19, 2008, 11:05:27 AM »

http://www. gmanews. tv/video/12682/Lady-police-officers-show-off-skills-in-fighting-criminals
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« Reply #89 on: July 28, 2008, 11:16:09 AM »


(Updates with outcome of talks, fresh quotes)

By Jalil Hamid and Manny Mogato

KUALA LUMPUR/MANILA, July 27 (Reuters) - The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group and the government agreed on Sunday to ballot areas within 12 months on whether they wanted to join an existing autonomous Muslim homeland in the volatile south.

The compromise came after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government resumed stalled talks in Malaysia.

While the deal was no guarantee that a final settlement to one of Southeast Asia's most intractable conflicts was in the offing, it was seen as an important step towards ending violence that has killed 120,000 people since the late 1960s.

"A breakthrough has been achieved in the issue of ancestral domain (homeland) in Kuala Lumpur tonight with the signing of a joint communique," said Hermogenes Esperon, the Philippine president's peace adviser, who attended the talks.

"With this positive development and the negotiations, the signing of the framework agreement on ancestral domain is tentatively set for early August," he said.

Under the deal, a referendum will be held in around 700 villages on whether they want to join the existing autonomous Muslim region.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks last week in the Malaysian capital ahead of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's annual state of the nation address on Monday.

But the talks ended in deadlock on Friday after Manila tried to delay a referendum on enlarging the existing Muslim homeland until after a separate political agreement was reached.

OPPOSITION COMPLAINTS

The existing Muslim homeland has its own government, legislature and Muslim courts, but remains dependent on the central government for its budget, foreign, defence and monetary policy.

In the final political agreement still under negotiation, the rebels are pushing for the homeland to retain 75 percent of the taxes raised in that region.

A Malaysian government source close to the talks said the signing of the agreement on expanding the ancestral homeland would be held either on August 5 or 6.

Analysts say opposition among powerful Christian and Muslim families in the south and government hawks to a formal peace deal with the MILF, and Arroyo's reliance on their support, mean Manila's negotiating strategy could easily be thrown off course.

Real progress in the talks appeared to have been made when Arroyo last week supported postponing Aug. 11 elections in the Muslim south, because progress in talks with the 11,000-member MILF made a new political setup a possibility.

Some Manila lawmakers opposed postponement and complained that they did not know what had been agreed with the MILF. They complained Congress was not consulted on the issue.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila and Jalil Hamid in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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« Reply #90 on: October 10, 2008, 07:49:44 AM »

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsD2cHJzoCY

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/research/...cestral-domain

http://timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=13722.0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiaHT...eature=related
« Last Edit: October 10, 2008, 07:54:44 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #91 on: October 16, 2008, 08:49:32 AM »

I thought it fitting to put this here CD, feel free to move it or let me know where you would prefer.

*Posted Event/Opportunity with the pre-written blessing of Crafty Dog:


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THAILAND / PHILIPPINES TOUR

NOV 27 - DEC 10 2008
HOSTED BY
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&
MASTER MARK GERRY



We will spend a week in Thailand
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Were staying at the Twin palms Resort on the beach in Pattaya
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and Training at the Kombat Village.
http://www.kombatgroup.com/index.html



We will spend a week in Philippines
Training and Touring.



We will Tour Manilla then
down to Cebu for Training
at Grandmaster Pallen's Temple
http://senkotiros.org/main.html
and Touring the white sand beach's.


For more info on this Trip or other
World Martial Arts Master's Tours

sifumarkgerry@aol.com

*If you want more info on this please mention DB's & C-Kaju Dog to Mark Gerry.  He will be sure to treat you like family.
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« Reply #92 on: October 22, 2009, 03:51:24 PM »

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/new...on-peace-talks


US officials meet with MILF on peace talks

COTABATO CITY – Washington officials again held a secret meeting with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the jungles of Maguindanao, reaffirming their support to the peace talks between them and the Philippine government.

US Embassy Charge’ de Affairs Leslie Basset; political officer Michael Pignagtello; Elzaida Washington, Country Director of the United States Aid for International Development; and Anthony Senci, Embassy defense minister, met on Friday with MILF commanders led by their chief, Ebrahim Murad, at Camp Darapanan, the rebel’s main camp in Sultan Kudarat town.

In her message posted on the rebels’ website, Basset reiterated the US commitment to support the peace process in Mindanao by providing more assistance.

“The United States government greatly respect and support people’s struggle and aspiration to achieve peace in the region. Helping attain and sustain peace, security and development in Mindanao is a priority concern of our government,” she said.

Murad said they have remained committed and determined since the start of the peace negotiation in 1997.

“We convey the utmost gratitude and felicitation of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people to the United States of America and His Excellency President Barack Obama for the unfaltering commitment to support the peace process and the peaceful conflict resolution between the government and MILF,” Murad said in statement.

MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar urged the US government to help specifically in addressing the conflict’s root cause.

“The US government knows very well the background of the conflict both historically and legally, and we believe that US can greatly help toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Jaafar said.

The MILF briefed US diplomats about the current peace negotiation situation that has been moving forward.

Recently, the government and the MILF forged the Framework Agreement on the formation of the International Contact Group (ICG), an international body composed of two member countries from European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference that would ensure the full implementation of all agreements to be signed by two panels.

At the same time, the MILF strongly believed US presence in the region has not been for purely counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism missions.

“Peace-making and peace-building must go hand in hand in resolving the Bangsamoro problem and the conflict in Mindanao. The US government is providing indispensible contribution to these efforts,” he said.

In 2008, US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney also secretly met with Murad in Darapanan where she assured the rebel group of her country’s support to the peace talks.
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« Reply #93 on: October 22, 2009, 03:53:35 PM »

http://filipinovoices.com/whos-sleeping-with-the-enemy

Who’s sleeping with the enemy?
October 21st, 2009 at 2:40 am by Manuel Buencamino

Last weekend Leslie Bassett, the US Embassy’s charge d’affaires, met with the top officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The meeting raises several questions.

Did the American Embassy ask the Arroyo administration for permission to meet with the MILF leadership?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacañang have not said anything. Military commanders in the area did not know that a meeting would take place.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the Americans simply requested him to provide security for their “routine familiarization visit.”

Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, spokesman for the Sixth Infantry Division that provided escorts for the Americans, was also clueless.

“We learned afterward from intelligence reports about the meeting. We learned that they discussed development projects and probably also the peace process.”

Now I don’t know about you but I think the US Embassy and, for that matter, all embassies, have an obligation to ask the host government for permission before sitting down with secessionists.

If the meeting was secret and held without the Arroyo administration’s permission, then the US Embassy not only breached diplomatic protocol—it also committed a subversive act.

Who initiated the meeting?

It’s not clear. The MILF was not forthcoming and the US Embassy downplayed it.

“Ms. Bassett met with various leaders and officials in Cotabato as part of a routine familiarization visit.”

What did the Americans and the secessionists discuss during their “warm and forthright” two-hour meeting?

Neither party provided details, but general statements coming from the US Embassy and the MILF make one wonder if indeed the US is taking the side of the secessionists.

The MILF web site posted Bassett’s statement and the profuse response of the MILF chieftain.

“The United States government greatly respects and supports the people’s struggle and aspiration to achieve peace in the region. Helping attain and sustain peace, security and development in Mindanao is a priority concern of our government,” said Bassett.

MILF chief Haji Murad responded, “We convey the utmost gratitude and felicitations of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people to the United States of America and His Excellency President Barack Obama for the unfaltering commitment to support the peace process and the peaceful conflict resolution between the government and MILF.”

Now, would Murad feel that way if he didn’t believe that Bassett’s statement is a message of support for the MILF’s goal of eventually seceding from the Republic?

The MILF is so confident of US support the vice chairman for MILF political affairs appealed for US intervention.

“The US government knows very well the background of the conflict both historically and legally, and we believe that the US can greatly help toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” said Ghazali Jaafar.

Jaafar’s statement seems innocuous enough until one sees where it’s coming from.

The MILF web site says, “Murad [the MILF chieftain] recalled that our Bangsamoro forefathers officially asked the United Sates as early as 1921 and followed up in 1924 and in 1935 to separate Bangsamoro homeland from the Filipinos of Luzon and Visayas once independence will be granted to the latter. The Moros wanted to remain under US rule rather than being annexed to the Philippine Republic.”

Is the US sleeping with the enemy?

Yes, but the US is not the only one in bed with the MILF.

Last year the Supreme Court had to step in to prevent the Arroyo administration from giving away Philippine territory to the MILF.
=============

http://www.luwaran.com/index.php?opt...ews&Itemid=372

MILF: US is a superpower; more effective outside of the ICG or formal framework of peace talks
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 08:24 administrator


October 20, 2009 - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has confirmed reports that it sought the help of the United States in the current GRP-MILF Peace Process in Mindanao, saying as a superpower the US can do many things very effective outside the framework of the International Contact Group (ICG) and the formal framework of the peace talks.

No less than Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the MILF, made the request to Ms. Leslie Basset, US Embassy deputy chief of mission, during a meeting in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on October 16.

Madame Basset was accompanied by US Embassy Political Officer Michael Pignagtello, Elzaida Washington, Country Director of the United Sates Aid for International Development, and Anthony Senci, Embassy Defense Minister.

Joining Murad were Ghazali Jaafar, Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator, Muhammad Ameen, Secretary of the MILF Central Committee, Gordon Sayfullah, Senior Commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force (BIAF), Atty. Datu Michael Mastura, Peace Negotiating Panel Member, Jun Mantawil, Head of Peace Panel Secretariat, and Toks Ebrahim, Chairman of the MILF Ceasefire Committee.

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF Peace Panel Secretariat, told www.luwaran.com/net that current global conflict resolutions point to the fact that without the participation of the former colonizing power, in the case of the Philippines, the US, hastening the process of finding the solution to a given conflict is really difficult.

He said the US knows very well the root of the conflict in Mindanao, which he said was the annexation of Mindanao into the national territory of the Philippines during the grant of independence in 1946.

He recalled that the Moros were administered separately from the Filipinos by the creation of the Moro Province in 1903 and they vehemently opposed union with Filipinos once independence is granted to the Philippines.

“The Moros wanted to remain under US direct rule where they feel safer,” Mantawil added.

Asked what definitive role the US can play, Mantawil did not provide details except by saying it is too early to tell.

Meantime, in a separate interview, Seguis said that the MILF should clarify how it wants Washington to take part in the peace process, given that Malaysia has been brokering the peace talks between the government and the rebels.

“It is a welcome development that the MILF is seeking the help of the US government, but I still have to know in detail on how would they like the US to be of assistance since it would have an impact on the framework that we are working on,” Seguis told The Manila Times. “Will they want the US to be a facilitator together with Malaysia, or as a part of the ICG?”

The Manila Times quoted Seguis in an interview as saying, “When they (the US Embassy officials) told me that they are going on a meeting, I said go ahead,” the government negotiator told The Times. “It is OK for the senior diplomats, including the US, to meet with the MILF. That is part of their engagement in dialogue for peace, for the formal resumption of the peace process.”

“They are participating in a peaceful dialogue to convince the MILF to go back to the negotiating table with us, so that they won’t resort to violence,” Seguis said, adding that he and Bassett will meet this week about what transpired in the Mindanao meeting.
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« Reply #94 on: October 22, 2009, 03:54:34 PM »

Third post:

I have NO idea as to the implications of this and I suspect we have several knowledgeable lurkers here.  Anyone?
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« Reply #95 on: December 30, 2011, 10:12:54 AM »

By JAMES HOOKWAY
The flash floods that killed more than 1,200 in the southern Philippines this month are providing Asia's longest-running Communist insurgency an opportunity to reinvent itself as a steward for the country's badly depleted environment—and that's triggering a fresh public-relations battle with the country's armed forces.

Government officials and activists have singled out illegal logging and decades of rapid deforestation as one of the main contributing factors behind the massive loss of life, which also left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

When Typhoon Washi dumped a month's worth of rain on Mindanao island in just 12 hours, the result was a series of surging flash floods that barreled straight down the slopes of denuded mountains to hit densely populated areas in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities. The local government's failure to pay heed to national leaders' warnings about the size of the storm heading their way was another problem, but the aftermath is focusing squarely on the consequences of Filipinos mistreating their environment.

President Benigno Aquino III captured the public mood when he said during a visit to Cagayan de Oro last week that the Philippines hasn't learned the lessons of the past and must do better to safeguard its environment to avoid future calamities.

The hard-line Maoists of the New People's Army are preparing to go further, though.

In a telephone interview Thursday, rebel spokesman Jorge Madlos said the guerrillas will demand that major plantation companies such as Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and Dole Food Co. pay up in recognition of the damage rebels say that their businesses have caused the local environment. "We aim to discuss with the companies how they can compensate the local people through our revolutionary cadres in the National Democratic Front," Mr. Madlos said. "If they don't participate, well, we'll have to see what happens."

A spokeswoman at Del Monte denied that the company contributed to deforestation in the area, and said that the firm began operations several decades ago on land that already had been cleared. Officials at Dole's Philippine operations couldn't be reached for comment.

The NPA, which the U.S. and European Union consider to be a foreign terrorist organization, has long extracted what it calls "revolutionary taxes" from businesses operating up and down the length of the Philippines. The rebels say they channel the money back into health programs for local populations and to finance their armed insurgency, which they have been waging since 1969.

Local development economists say the rebels deter investment in some of the most economically backward provinces of this scattered archipelago.

Now, though, political analysts say the NPA is trying to portray itself as a group of ecological avengers that punishes polluters and protects the local environment. In October, NPA guerrillas raided three mining sites in Mindanao, destroying valuable mining equipment and suspending operations at the Philippines' single largest nickel-producing mine in what they described at the time as an act of retribution.

The Philippine armed forces, though, are pushing back quickly. On Wednesday armed forces commander Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa said the rebel's new tack is a sign of that they are losing strength and are struggling to secure fresh funding overseas after the U.S. and Europe declared the New People's Army a foreign terrorist organization several years ago.

Lt. Gen. Dellosa said the rebels so far this year have extorted at least 300 million pesos, or nearly $7 million, in revolutionary taxes. That compares with about one billion pesos last year, when the rebels managed to extort vast sums from candidates campaigning in national elections.

"We are concerned with the direction they are heading in now," Lt. Gen. Dellosa told reporters. "Resorting to criminal activities for funding and attacking civilians to command obedience are signs of desperation."

At its peak in the early 1980s the NPA commanded more than 25,000 guerrillas and currently claims about 16,000 fighters in its ranks. The army puts the current figure substantially lower at about 5,000.

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« Reply #96 on: October 08, 2012, 12:45:13 PM »


MANILA — President Benigno S. Aquino III announced Sunday that the Philippine government had reached a deal with a major rebel group that officials hope will reduce the persistent violence in the southern part of the country.

“This framework agreement paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao,” Mr. Aquino said.

The deal with the rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has fought a war of independence for more than three decades, is the first step in what is expected to be a long, complex process of working through disputes that have lasted for centuries between the Christian-dominated national government and the predominantly Muslim residents of the southern island of Mindanao.

If the agreement succeeds in significantly reducing violence in Mindanao, it will be a historic achievement and a major political victory for Mr. Aquino, who has been heavily criticized in recent weeks for some of his legislative proposals.

Every Philippine president since the 1970s has tried to address the violence in Mindanao, which has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives and displaced more than two million people.

Fidel Ramos, president from 1992 to 1998, was able to forge a peace agreement in 1996 with another major rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front. Joseph Estrada, Mr. Ramos’s successor, declared all-out war against the Muslim rebels in an attempt to achieve peace through force.

But the violence has persisted, even with about 500 United States troops based in Mindanao as part of a joint Special Operations task force, which helps the Philippine military target the most violent and extreme insurgents.

Mindanao is plagued by roadside bombings, firefights between the military and various armed groups, gun battles between warring clans, kidnappings of Filipinos and foreigners, and general crime and lawlessness. Many countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia, strongly warn their citizens to stay out of the southern Philippines.

The agreement announced Sunday is the result of intermittent peace talks that have been taking place in Malaysia since 2001.

“The agreement will ensure that the Bangsamoro people will enjoy the dividends of peace, which they rightly deserve,” said Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, using a term that refers to the native people of the southern Philippines. “In turn, they should respect their fellow Filipinos of Christian faith, as moderation is the true Islamic way.”

Under the agreement, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will no longer seek an independent state, Mr. Aquino said. Instead, the deal creates a new governing political entity, called Bangsamoro, for Mindanao.

As part of the deal, the new political entity will exercise a degree of autonomy in governing Mindanao while the national government retains authority over defense and security, foreign policy, monetary policy and citizenship matters. The deal also assures the people of Mindanao “a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues and the fruits of national patrimony,” Mr. Aquino said.

“This means that hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations and opening doorways of opportunity for other citizens,” Mr. Aquino said.

One important part of the agreement calls for the decommissioning of the military wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which reportedly has 11,000 fighters. In addition, the Philippine military will turn over law enforcement to the local police.

The accord sets out general guidelines for a more detailed agreement that will be fleshed out by working groups over the next few years, said David C. Gorman, who helped mediate the talks on behalf of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, an organization based in Geneva that is devoted to resolving armed conflicts.

“It’s going to be tough,” Mr. Gorman said. “It’s not a peace agreement. It’s a framework agreement. It is saying: ‘This is the road map to peace. These are the broad outlines. Now you have to work out the details.’ ”

“It is going to be messy and it is going to take time,” he added.

The deal includes provisions to address clan warfare, the proliferation of weapons, and the private armies that are blamed for widespread political violence in the southern Philippines. A private army employed by the Ampatuan clan in central Mindanao has been accused of the 2009 massacre of 57 people, including 31 journalists, in one of the country’s worst acts of political violence.

Though the Sunday agreement was reached with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main rebel group in the southern Philippines, it includes mechanisms to bring other organizations into the discussions on local government. Notably, this does not include extremist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, which is blamed for kidnappings, murders and beheadings.

“These extremist groups are always going to be difficult to deal with,” Mr. Gorman said. “There are always going to be those operating outside the agreement, but as long as they are not able to undermine the process they will remain marginalized.”

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, staged a series of attacks and bombings in August during the final weeks of the peace talks. One attack, on Aug. 5, killed 80 militants and 10 soldiers and caused the evacuation of 189 residents.

Illustrating the challenges facing the government, and those seeking peace in Mindanao, the group said late Sunday that it would not respect the new agreement.
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« Reply #97 on: September 09, 2013, 11:53:24 AM »



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323595004579064482934595634.html?mod=world_newsreel
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« Reply #98 on: September 15, 2013, 08:01:25 PM »

Philippine Troops Close In on Militant Group
Philippine government forces gradually close in on a militant group that has held scores of people hostage in the southern trading hub of Zamboanga City.
By  JAMES HOOKWAY  and  JOSEPHINE CUNETA

Philippine troops have killed or captured nearly 100 Muslim rebels, officials said Sunday, as government forces gradually close in on a militant group that has held scores of people hostage for the past week in the southern trading hub of Zamboanga City.

The bloody standoff has revived long-standing fears about the stability of the southern Philippines, denting the country's international reputation as one of Asia's hottest economies after it grew 7.6% on year in the first six months of the year, outpacing China. One of the biggest concerns among economists is that the latest outbreak of violence could jeopardize a fragile cease-fire elsewhere in the fertile southern region of Mindanao, and rob the war-scarred area of a potentially valuable peace dividend.

"With global investor interest in the Philippines having increased significantly in the last two years due to improving macroeconomic fundamentals, rapid economic growth and the Philippines' newly gained investment grade credit rating," said Rajiv Biswas, head Asia economist for IHS, "the impact of the conflict in Zamboanga City is likely to result in investors switching their investment plans away from Mindanao toward other economic regions of the Philippines with a more stable political climate."

That is a worrying prospect for the Philippine government and President Benigno Aquino III. He has invested much of his political capital in securing a peace deal with the largest Muslim rebel group in the region, signing a framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to establish an autonomous region in the Muslim-majority areas of the predominantly Christian Philippines.

The group that led the offensive in Zamboanga City, however, comes from another Muslim rebel group, a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front led by veteran rebel chieftain Nur Misuari, that is increasingly at odds with the goal of peace.

Mr. Misuari, 70 years old, previously signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996, raising hopes that a rebellion prompted by centuries of Christian migration into the previously Muslim southern Philippines would finally end. Instead, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other, more extremist groups with al Qaeda connections, such as the Abu Sayyaf group, continued the fight, prompting the latest round of talks with the government.

Mr. Misuari, who couldn't be reached for comment and who is believed by security forces to be bunkered on a nearby island, has been largely sidelined and "wants to show he still counts," said Julkipli Wadi, an expert on the politics of the southern Philippines and a professor at the University of the Philippines.

Earlier this year, Mr. Misuari provided his moral support for a branch of the defunct Sultanate of Sulu that attempted to invade parts of eastern Malaysia to establish an archaic claim to sovereignty there. He told reporters in Manila at the time that some of his fighters had been involved, adding to the diplomatic tensions between the Philippines and Malaysia.

On Aug. 12, Mr. Misuari went a step further and declared independence from the rest of the Philippines at his jungle lair on Jolo Island, and his faction of the Moro National Liberation Front was back to the fore of the region's delicate security equation.

The rebels entered Zamboanga City, a major fishing and trading hub, early on Sept. 9 with plans to raise their flag at City Hall. They encountered stiff resistance from local security forces, and took as many as 180 people hostage as they retreated to several coastal neighborhoods.

For the time being, though, Mr. Misuari's forces appear to be on the back foot. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II Sunday said that at least 51 rebels have been killed in the skirmishes and another 42 captured. Six members of the security forces, along with four civilians have been killed, with more than 60,000 people made homeless by the fighting.

Many of the hostages taken by the rebels have been released and security officials say they believe that only a handful are left.

The cost to the fledgling peace agreement with the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front appears unclear, however. Both government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front officials say they will continue their discussions toward creating an autonomous zone.

The issue now, one Philippines-based intelligence official said, is to what extent Mr. Misuari's Moro National Liberation Front will be able to attract dissidents and splinter groups from the peace process, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and further undermine the economic prospects for the broader Mindanao region, which contributes 15% of the Philippine economy.
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« Reply #99 on: November 20, 2013, 02:57:44 PM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/world/asia/typhoon-response-highlights-weaknesses-in-philippine-military.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131120
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