Author Topic: Philippines  (Read 94973 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Peace Process stumbles forward
« Reply #101 on: September 14, 2014, 10:12:04 AM »

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In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward
Analysis
September 14, 2014 | 0811 Print Text Size
In the Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward
Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels attend a rally in support of the peace agreement with the government in Sultan Kudarat, Philippines, on March 27. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary

Peace is not imminent in the predominantly Muslim areas of the southern Philippines, but government efforts to stabilize the archipelagic region took a major step forward this week. On Sept. 10, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III submitted to Congress a draft law creating a new autonomous government for the southern region, to be known as Bangsamoro, ending a tense three-month period of deliberations with rebel negotiators over the law's finer details. The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is the product of nearly two decades of violence-marred negotiations between the government and Moro rebels. It aims to address some of the underlying drivers of the violence by giving the region a greater share of resource and tax revenues, in addition to a largely independent parliament, police force and civil judiciary.

The draft still faces steep legislative and political hurdles, as well as lingering questions about its compliance with the Philippine Constitution. Even if fully implemented, the law wouldn't completely pacify the restive region, which is home to numerous other militant groups, clan-based blood feuds and entrenched criminal networks that will continue to deter the development of the region's vast economic potential. Nonetheless, mounting economic and political incentives, a decline in militant capabilities, and Manila's fundamental geopolitical imperatives will continue to generate momentum for a solution.
Analysis

The peace process in Muslim Mindanao has been lurching forward for decades, despite routine disruptions by rebels seeking to gain leverage in negotiations or derail them altogether, as well as political and judicial complications. By hammering out an agreement on the law's most contentious details with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front -- the strongest group and the one most capable of governing the region -- Manila hopes that the peace process can finally move beyond negotiations, reducing the ability of holdout militants to influence the shape of the deal through violence. The primary obstacles to passage are now procedural: The Aquino administration is urging Congress to pass the law by early 2015, positioning it to be ratified in a referendum in Bangsamoro by the end of the president's term in 2016.

Constitutional Questions and Continuing Complications

A key remaining issue is constitutionality. In 2008, the Supreme Court invalidated a peace deal reached with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that was seen as nearly identical to a cease-fire agreement finalized in March. Rebel negotiators have long contended that charter change would be needed to allot Bangsamoro the level of autonomy agreed upon in cease-fire negotiations. The Aquino administration asserts that the constitution can accommodate the new law, but repeated delays in submitting the bill to Congress suggest a lack of confidence that it will pass Supreme Court inspection. For much of the past three months, the deal appeared on the brink of unraveling while the palace reviewed the draft, at one point revising or removing several key passages, forcing negotiators to reopen talks on contentious points that had already been settled. Philippine constitutional scholars are divided on the issue.

Should the Supreme Court invalidate the law, either the rebels would be expected to accept a diluted deal, or the Aquino administration would need to push for a charter change -- a daunting task that would face opposition from Philippine nationalists and tie the fate of the law to other political issues amid a campaign season. Similarly, Congress could demand changes that would complicate the Bangsamoro referendum. Any of these scenarios would increase the risk of violence, albeit not to the degree that followed similar setbacks in the past.

Even if the law clears these hurdles, autonomy alone will not stabilize Bangsamoro. Any new government would struggle to assert control over the fractious region, home to myriad ethno-linguistic groups and a geographic landscape ill-suited for unity. Militant groups sidelined during the recent peace negotiations are unlikely to recognize the legitimacy of a regional government led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, particularly in the Sulu archipelago, the stronghold of the rival Moro National Liberation Front (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's parent organization), which rejects the new law on grounds that it will abrogate its own agreement for semi-autonomy reached with the government in 1996. Meanwhile, more radical groups -- namely Abu Sayyaf and the communist New People's Army -- will continue attacks that will complicate the implementation of the law, irrespective of whatever progress is made between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Ultimately, major investment and development will be needed to build a sustainable peace, as the regional economy has floundered amid the insecurity. Muslim Mindanao has a per capita gross domestic product of around 40 percent of the nationwide average, with unemployment reaching 48 percent in 2012. The region regularly suffers from blackouts that make manufacturing unattractive, while the prevalence of kidnappings, bombings and extortion scares off foreign investors. In the late 1990s, for example, the Philippine National Oil Co. and Malaysia's Petronas withdrew from an oil and natural gas play in territory controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, reportedly due to threats from the rebel group and other local warlords. On Aug. 24, fighters with the New People's Army -- which routinely targets foreign companies in the region -- raided two Del Monte banana plantations. Any potential investor will also need to navigate unresolved clan conflicts and historical territorial disputes, pervasive corruption and entrenched criminal networks led by local warlords and political oligarchs.
Forces Compelling the Peace Process

Nonetheless, the peace process has repeatedly proved resilient to judicial and militant complications and will continue to do so. Violence spiked after the 2008 ruling, but within four years the two sides had inked another framework deal that laid the groundwork for the new Bangsamoro law. This, too, sparked violence, with the Moro National Liberation Front battling the military in Zamboanga City for three weeks in 2013, displacing more than 100,000 people. Simultaneously, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2008 in opposition to the cease-fire negotiations) and Abu Sayyaf launched attacks elsewhere. Those also failed to derail the talks, as have regular attacks since.
The Philippines' Geographic Challenge

The resilience of the stabilization process stems from several factors: First, there are indeed powerful economic incentives for peace. The region is home to as much as 70 percent of the country's untapped mineral sources -- upwards of $300 billion in gold, copper, nickel, manganese, lead, zinc and iron ore deposits. It also has oil and natural gas potential and is attractive for tourism. Development of these resources would fund the massive infrastructure investment needed for the Philippines to meet its long-term economic imperatives and take advantage of emerging regional opportunities. The resource wealth may intensify local rivalries, but it can also be used to win cooperation from local warlords and political oligarchs while isolating holdouts from patronage flows. To generate public backing for the law, Philippine leaders have been consistently touting the region's economic promise, including the fact that foreign direct investment has surged over the past year in Mindanao in anticipation of peace.

Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which dropped its demand for full independence in 2003 and has since evolved into a primarily political organization, cannot afford to miss even a fleeting chance to capitalize on its efforts. Its moderate leadership is aging, and it lacks the militant capabilities it once had. If pressed for further concessions, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front could seek leverage by aligning with its more radical rivals, particularly the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. However, the peace process has already sparked some development in areas controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, weakening public support for any potential return to violence. At this point, backing out of the deal would threaten an opportunity for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to deliver autonomy to the region while entrenching itself in power. This is why Aquino's alterations to the draft law did not sink it, despite generating a strong rhetorical backlash from rebel negotiators.

Divisions among the other various militant groups in Muslim Mindanao will make for a weaker rebel challenge overall, albeit one within which radical wings and shifting alignments pose continued challenges for Manila. Though the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have become increasingly active since the beginning of the year, the group only controls a few hundred fighters. Abu Sayyaf has essentially evolved into little more than a kidnapping and extortion syndicate. For its part, the Moro National Liberation Front appears increasingly divided, isolated and irrelevant. While some Moro National Liberation Front leaders still refuse to negotiate, others (particularly those located in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-dominated central Mindanao) have been making conciliatory gestures. Indeed, were it to heed calls from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Manila and the international community to join the new Bangsamoro government, the Moro National Liberation Front would form a strong minority bloc with, by certain metrics, greater control over regional resources than it had under the 1996 deal.

For the Philippine government, progress in Mindanao has become increasingly imperative as the country gradually shifts its defense posture. The new law will free the military to focus its divide-and-conquer tactics on the holdout groups, while the opportunity to control local rebel-dominated industries will likely keep military leaders onboard. The government's ultimate imperatives are geopolitical: It is facing diplomatic pressure from regional allies such as Malaysia (which has its own security concerns about Philippine rebels) and the United States (which provides considerable military support) to implement a settlement. More important, with tensions in the South China Sea growing, the Philippines must find a way to shift its focus from internal stabilization to its external vulnerabilities and maritime position. Unchecked insurgencies would make Muslim Mindanao ripe for foreign exploitation and a perpetual drain on military resources while undermining the economic growth needed to fund military modernization and prepare the country for more critical threats.

Read more: In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward | Stratfor
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Crafty_Dog

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« Last Edit: October 17, 2016, 06:22:39 PM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Philippines
« Reply #107 on: March 27, 2017, 06:29:53 AM »
Still waiting to see what  the affect on drug dealing is in the country from this.  The last time I checked no one knows.

here is a locked up abroad episode from 2008 involving the Philippines

https://www.snap.com/en-US/news/

Doubt there are any episodes since Duarte has been in power from 2013.



Crafty_Dog

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« Last Edit: May 31, 2017, 01:17:10 PM by Crafty_Dog »



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% of Muslimists in Philippines
« Reply #116 on: June 26, 2017, 06:01:39 AM »
I always thought of Philippines as a Christian nation .

It is :

from Wikipedia - the breakdown of population by religion:

92% Christianity
5.57% Islam
2.43% others

DougMacG

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Re: % of Muslimists in Philippines
« Reply #117 on: June 26, 2017, 07:59:53 AM »
I always thought of Philippines as a Christian nation .
92% Christianity
5.57% Islam
2.43% others

In a region where others are majority Muslim:

Indonesia also has a larger Muslim population than any other country in the world, with approximately 202.9 million identifying themselves as Muslim (87.2% of Indonesia's total population in 2011).

Malaysia: 61.3 percent of the population practices Islam.

Islam is Brunei's official religion, 67 percent of the population is Muslim.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Philippines
« Reply #118 on: June 26, 2017, 10:26:39 AM »
Muslims are concentrated in certain islands in the south.  The Southern Philippines have a long history of Muslim resistance to Spanish resistance, American colonization, and Manila dominance.  Sometimes this gets up in the central Philippines e.g. Negros.

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Stratfor: The fierce battle for Marawi City
« Reply #120 on: July 13, 2017, 09:47:10 PM »
Stratfor Worldview

 
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Jul 5, 2017 | 09:00 GMT
Visualizing the Fierce Battle for Marawi City
Satellite images show damage inflicted to Marawi City in the Philippines as government forces battle Islamic State-affiliated militants.
(Stratfor)
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Since late May, Marawi City in the Philippines has been the backdrop for fighting between the Islamic State-affiliated Maute group and Philippine government troops. On May 23, the militants began their offensive on the city, following a failed attempt by government forces to arrest militant commander Isnilon Hapilon. Hapilon, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Filipini, is the emir of Islamic State forces in the Philippines and a former leader of the Muslim separatist group Abu Sayyaf.

Since the offensive began, Marawi City has turned into an intense urban battleground. Though Philippine forces are advancing against the Islamic State fighters, militants still hold several hundred buildings throughout the city, and every position must be cleared. Philippine soldiers are having to adjust on the fly to the realities of urban combat, fighting from one house to the next and capturing between 40 to 100 houses per day, according to Philippine military sources.

Securing Marawi City comes at a cost, however, and so far 82 soldiers and police officers have died in the six weeks of fighting. Over 40 civilians have also reportedly been killed, though this number will likely rise as more areas are recaptured. The militants have taken hostage approximately 100 to 200 civilians, who they are suspected of using as human shields. Several hundred more civilians are trapped in their homes by the fighting. In addition to the human cost, the battle is taking a massive toll on the infrastructure of the city, as persistent artillery fire and airstrikes by government forces have reduced major sections of Marawi City to rubble.

At this point, there are believed to be about 100 militants still holding out in the city, with the military claiming to have killed close to 300 members of the opposition during its advance. The building-by-building nature of the advance means progress is slow, exacerbated by booby traps left behind by withdrawing militants. Government forces have been combing liberated areas for unexploded ordnance, which they will likely continue to do even after the militants are defeated. Several high-value targets are also believed to still be located in Marawi — including Hapilon — and Philippine forces will seek to isolate, capture or kill them if they have the opportunity.

Despite Philippine forces being located on all sides of the city on land, there is a risk that retreating militants could escape by water. Local boatmen have been found running the blockade around Marawi City, ferrying ammunition and supplies into the militant-held areas of the city and evacuating injured fighters. As government troops progress, militant leadership and foreign fighters could use these boatmen to escape.

Prior to the fighting in Marawi City, bombing and kidnapping campaigns conducted by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups resulted in very limited damage. By occupying Marawi City and engaging the Philippine armed forces, the militants have provoked a government response that has damaged the city far more than they could have managed on their own. And the destruction caused by the military further benefits the militant groups by providing a useful narrative for the Islamic State to exploit as it works to build support in the Philippines.

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Marawi and the Struggles to Come (China considers making a move)
« Reply #121 on: July 24, 2017, 06:16:41 AM »
The Fight in Marawi City and the Struggles to Come
Philippine troops head to Marawi City to fight Islamist militants. Government success against a long history of insurgencies on the southern island of Mindanao comes piecemeal, and reversals always seem to follow.
(TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
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The recent grinding, street-to-street fighting in Marawi City against Islamic State-affiliated militants has focused the world's attention on the restive and remote Philippine region of Mindanao. In time, the clashes will subside. But, as with the Iraqi city of Mosul, this monthslong episode is only one part of a longer struggle — one with roots centuries deep and with dim prospects for a lasting resolution. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a political outsider with a strongman image to maintain, is preparing measures intended to bring stability to the region — and forward his own goals in the process.

A Shifting Mix of Militants

Insurgency has a long history in Mindanao. The island group is far removed from the capital of Manila and has strong geographic and historical ties to contiguous regions of Indonesia and Malaysia. And whereas the Philippines as a whole is more than 90 percent Christian, about 20 percent of the residents of Mindanao are Muslim, with many concentrated in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, as well as in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The ethnic Moro Muslims of Mindanao have resisted the state on and off since the colonial period, with modern insurgencies tracing their roots back to the 1960s. Duterte, who was mayor of Davao City in southeast Mindanao for 22 years, understands the delicate balance among militant groups in the region.

This balance has made implementing an enduring peace challenging to say the least. The militants who took control of Marawi City on May 23 call themselves the Maute group and represent just one tiny corner of a sprawling militant landscape defined by overlapping factions, deep divisions and strong disagreements over how to relate to the central government in Manila. Lucrative criminal smuggling and kidnapping activities in the poorly policed waters nearby only make this landscape more complex.
For centuries, an ever-shifting set of rebel groups has battled central authority on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

The strongest Moro militant group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), struck a peace deal with the government in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations, securing promises of concessions that separatist groups worldwide would envy: A region to be called Bangsamoro in southwest Mindanao presided over by MILF, replete with a lawmaking body, judicial system and police force, as well as a share of taxes and mineral wealth. This area would expand upon and replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao established in an earlier peace deal with another group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which has fragmented into numerous factions and become largely isolated and irrelevant. But the Philippine Congress has yet to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would cement the government's promises and set a timetable for their delivery. Tensions in Mindanao and hurdles erected by the Philippine Supreme Court stalled the bill's progress in late 2016 under Duterte's predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III. MILF's leaders are eager for Congress to pass the law, since the longer it is delayed, the more the group's legitimacy and control erodes and the greater the risk of continued fragmentation.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law – the core of a 2014 peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – would have created a MILF-led administrative region known as Bangsamoro. The proposal is stalled in the Philippine Congress.

With MILF's deal under mounting pressure and ideological splits forming on whether to make peace with the government at all, the mainstream group's aging leadership has found it hard to contain younger, more radical members. The Maute group is composed of disaffected MILF fighters who formed their own organization under the leadership of Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute in 2012. Other militant groups, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf, have also challenged MILF's moderate stance.

In 2015, the Maute group declared its allegiance to the Islamic State. And the Islamic State's rise has only complicated Mindanao's situation by providing a fresh rallying point. Foreign fighters — a number of whom appear to be participating in the Marawi City fight, according to the Philippine military — have buoyed the Maute group. The Islamic State in Syria also managed to make numerous small transfers of money to the Maute fighters in Marawi via Malaysian intermediary Dr. Mahmud bin Ahmad. The slow-motion collapse of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will only exacerbate these problems: The movement is evolving into one that thrives in vacuums of authority and crises of legitimacy — both of which describe Mindanao. If Manila cannot manage to get a handle on the region, it will continue to be a haven for radical groups.

A Plan Laden With Political Challenges

Duterte has signaled he will push forward with measures aimed at brokering a lasting balance in Mindanao. On July 18, the president received a new draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and said he would move to fast-track the legislation through Congress. Though details of the new draft law are scant, MILF's leaders have said that they hope for the transition period to begin in 2019 and culminate in local Bangsamoro elections in 2022.

Passing and implementing the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be difficult, even for a maverick such as Duterte. The president ran on a campaign that emphasized reforming the Philippine Constitution to transition the country from its current unitary political system to a federal model. Duterte says such a change would help to spread wealth across the country and alleviate massive regional development disparities. It also would help to break up political networks in the capital, a boon to political outsiders like Duterte and to large city centers outside the core island of Luzon (such as his home city of Davao). The president has laid out an ambitious plan to bring about this politically fraught change: In December 2016, he issued an executive order creating a constitutional review committee, which he says he will appoint after he has received the Bangsamoro Basic Law draft and made progress in peace deals with communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines insurgents. Though Duterte has identified the law as a template for federalism elsewhere in the country, such a passage will still be a major challenge politically and could face court challenges under the constitution.
Differing levels of development in the Philippines give the nation's numerous subregions varying imperatives.

Though the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law would shore up Duterte's federalist ambitions, it is not likely to truly solve the militant threat in Mindanao. There are simply too many subgroups with too little centralized control and too much incentive to defy moderate Moro leaders. A lasting solution would require a complex balance of political and military measures — and would still be vulnerable. The June inauguration of trilateral maritime patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in the waters near Mindanao would be one part of a broader solution. The Marawi City siege, in fact, helped to expedite the patrols, with defense chiefs specifically highlighting a need to block the movement of Islamic State-aligned militants fleeing fighting in the city. Singapore, an observer of the patrols, also recently extended an offer to train Philippine forces in urban combat and to provide drone surveillance assistance — a sign of broader support by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for stability in the southern Philippines.

The MILF (and MNLF) in Marawi have been supportive of the Philippine armed forces; in fact, they have pushed for a larger role in keeping with their support for counterterrorism measures in the past. Leaders from both groups declared their commitment to the peace process shortly after the late May takeover of Marawi City. Throughout the siege, MILF has organized brief cease-fires with the Maute group through intermediaries and maintained a humanitarian corridor for civilians to exit the city. The mainstream group is keen to emphasize its support for the government and signal that it can be trusted with a semi-autonomous region. A potential spoiler, however, would be the emergence of evidence that MILF leaders had foreknowledge of the Maute group's plans in Marawi City — a subject of constantly bubbling rumors and a possibility given the overlap among the region's militant groups.

Looking to China, Needing the United States

The big question going forward is what role China will play in Mindanao and Marawi City. Duterte has made his high-profile effort to rebalance toward China a trademark of his administration, tilting away from the Philippines' longtime ally, the United States. But the fight for Marawi City laid bare the continued value of the U.S. alliance structure. Early in his term, Duterte had called for long-present U.S. special operations forces to leave Mindanao before the military pushed back and he allowed fresh rotations. With the outbreak of fighting in Marawi, U.S. personnel quickly stepped in as advisers in the fight — a fact Duterte was initially tight-lipped about. Since that time, U.S. partner Australia has provided surveillance assistance and Singapore has offered the same.

But Duterte has emphasized a wish for China to play a future role in Mindanao. China is already leveraging its substantial economic heft in the region, with studies underway to expand the port in Davao City as part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative. But in the immediate fight for Marawi City, China's assistance has been limited. On June 29, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua promised to explore areas of counterterrorism cooperation through training, military exercises and intelligence sharing. He also oversaw the handover of light arms — the first of a two-part, $11.7 million package. With Duterte already talking about a bombastic million-dollar reconstruction package for Marawi City, China will have ample opportunity to leverage its wealth if it chooses.

But the fighting in Marawi City — much less Mindanao — is not yet over. The initial 60-day period of martial law that Duterte declared in late May expired on July 22 and Duterte managed so secure an extension from congress through the end of 2017, citing information about broader militant activities. Though an extension will give Duterte the latitude he wants to clamp down on hard-line militants, it is also a contentious move, given the Philippines' history of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship. It also carries risks on the ground — a failed arrest of militant leader Isnilon Hapilon initiated the militant takeover of Marawi City in May. This has been a pattern, with military activity stirring the hornet's nest of both mainstream militant units and hard-liners, sparking fighting. And so, the struggle to steady Mindanao will continue as it has before — piecemeal and with setbacks.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: ISIS in Marawi, Philippines
« Reply #122 on: October 18, 2017, 08:17:15 PM »
Photos and maps at https://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-islamic-states-other-grisly-war-a-world-away-from-syria-1508337872


Inside Islamic State’s Other Grisly War, a World Away From Syria
Islamists in the Philippines pledged allegiance to ISIS, devastated a city and built a model for jihadists after the fall of Raqqa
Philippine troops during their assault against Islamist militants in Marawi in September.
By Jake Maxwell Watts | Photographs by
Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal
Oct. 18, 2017 10:44 a.m. ET
11 COMMENTS
Link copied…

MARAWI, Philippines—On the third day of his captivity, during one of the most violent jihadist rebellions outside the Middle East and Africa, Ronnel Samiahan watched Islamist militants make an example of a fellow hostage who had tried to break free.

After dragging the conscious man onto the street and pulling his head up by the hair, the militants began sawing at his neck with a knife. Five minutes later, the executioner thrust the severed head toward the remaining hostages, warning, “If you try to escape, this is what is going to happen to you,” recalled Mr. Samiahan, a Christian local laborer.

Islamist militants took over this city of 200,000 people in late May, modeling themselves on Islamic State, or ISIS. Philippine soldiers, assisted by the U.S. military, struggled to reclaim it.

Inside the Philippines' Bloody War Against Islamist Militants

The Philippine military has struggled to defeat hundreds of well-armed militants who seized the southern city of Marawi in May. Photo: Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal

Philippine authorities on Monday said two of the militants’ most senior leaders had been killed, including one on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, and that it was a few days from securing the city. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared the city liberated.

The militants’ occupation—and the military’s siege—has left Marawi in ruins, with more than 1,000 soldiers, civilians and militants killed and many neighborhoods devastated by airstrikes. A few dozen militants remain in the city, the military said on Tuesday.



The Marawi battle shows how militant groups outside the Middle East and Africa are finding a template in Islamic State, not just as an exporter of terrorism, but also as a holder of territory. ISIS itself is looking for new beachheads having been pushed out of strongholds such as its de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, which U.S.-backed forces said they captured this week.

“They look around the globe,” said Colin Clarke, a counterterrorism researcher at Rand Corp., a policy think tank. “They try to find a place where there is an ongoing insurgency, and they latch themselves onto that cause and exploit those local grievances.”

President Duterte has voiced concern that violence could spread from Marawi to other areas in the southern Philippines. Analysts say revenge or copycat attacks are likely to strike Manila or other Southeast Asian capitals.

In mid-2016, ISIS called on potential new recruits unable to join it in the Middle East to look to the Philippines. ISIS media agencies have promoted the Marawi conflict to their followers.
e

A brief history of the Marawi conflict and the Islamist groups that sparked it.
Isnilon Hapilon and his Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group kidnap tourists, later beheading some.
Hapilon swears allegiance to Islamic State, which later endorses him as "emir" in Southeast Asia.
Fighters from a newly emerging Islamist group in Mindanao, led by Omar and Abdullah Maute, occupy a town, later bomb Davao City.
Maute fighters swear allegiance to Islamic State, raid Marawi jail.
Hapilon and his group begin joining Maute fighters.
Philippine military mobilizes against militants in Marawi, beginning long siege as Maute fighters dig in, using improvised explosives and snipers.
Maute fighters flying Islamic State flags occupy Marawi, burning buildings, taking hostages.
A misaimed airstrike kills 11 Philippine soldiers as troops push militants to city's east.
The U.S. says it is providing special forces assistance to the Philippines.
Military takes back first of three key bridges, later retakes key buildings.
Military retakes remaining bridge. Earlier in the month, Philippine authorities say one Maute brother believed killed.
Philippine authorities say two remaining militant leaders killed; military declares battle nearly over.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declares Marawi liberated.

Sources: Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Government, Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict

“It will be difficult to replicate a similar urban assault like Marawi in the short term,” said Francisco J. Lara, Philippines country manager of peace-building agency International Alert. “But the threat of a similar attack in the future remains real.”

Marawi is on Mindanao island, long known as a haven for extremists, from communist guerrillas to separatist Muslims. The U.S. for years has kept a small special forces contingent on the island.  The militants in Marawi, known as the Maute after the brothers who led them, Omar and Abdullah Maute, received funds from ISIS and modeled many of their tactics on the group, Philippine officials say. Their goal was to create a caliphate, or Islamic kingdom, with fighters from abroad including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, these officials say. Marawi was once a relatively prosperous trading hub, surrounded by hills and a lake. It is predominantly Muslim, with the minarets and domes of mosques. There is a small Catholic minority.

The siege

The tale of the Marawi battle—told by the Philippine military and witnesses on the ground, including former hostages—shows how ISIS-inspired militants can quickly consume a city far from its base and supply lines in the Middle East.


It began May 23. Soldiers and police moved in on a house after receiving intelligence showing the Maute brothers and another militant leader, Isnilon Hapilon, were hiding there. The military, which inadvertently interrupted a plan to occupy Marawi, found itself laying a siege that would last roughly five months.

Known for kidnapping and beheading foreigners from tourist resorts even before his ISIS affiliation, Mr. Hapilon is on the U.S. State Department’s most-wanted-terrorists list. In 2014, he swore allegiance to ISIS, which two years later endorsed him on its central media channel as its “emir,” or ruler, in Southeast Asia.

The Maute brothers were a lesser-understood threat. They were educated in Egypt and Jordan and from an elite local family, according to the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a terror-research group in Jakarta. In 2016, they briefly occupied a town about a two-hour drive from Marawi. Their group later attacked a Marawi prison, releasing some of their captured fighters, and bombed a night market in Davao City, President Duterte’s hometown.

Before government troops could get close on May 23, they came under fire from several buildings and retreated. Soon, hundreds of heavily armed fighters who had infiltrated Marawi began flooding the streets, planting the black ISIS flag in public areas and taking hostages, primarily Christians and the Muslims who sought to protect them.

The militants torched a cathedral and a school. Photographs by residents show Maute fighters in dark clothing and hats or balaclavas patrolling streets and mounting ISIS flags on vehicles. Civilians fled to surrounding towns and to government-run refugee camps. President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.

A hostage’s tale

Mr. Samiahan, who witnessed the hostage’s execution, had lived in Marawi for five years. His family of seven slipped out the back of their house after darkness and hid in the tall grass of an adjacent field as Maute fighters, yelling in triumph, set fire to the next-door Dansalan College, a Christian school.

The family spent the night huddled in the rain as Maute fighters shined flashlights across the grassy field. They were so close, Mr. Samiahan’s wife, Yolanda, said, “you could almost shake their hands.”

Ronnel Samiahan, 34, here with his son Greg, witnessed a beheading during his captivity by the Islamist militants.


In following days, they hid in a hospital and other buildings before deciding no rescue was coming. Attempting to leave the militant-controlled part of the city, they were stopped at a Maute checkpoint. There, militants tested residents to see if they were Muslim or Christian: Only those who could reply to a Muslim greeting in Arabic were allowed to leave.

Mr. Samiahan, unlike most of his relatives, failed the test and was locked in a warehouse. On his second night, one captive tried to loosen his bonds while the Maute were sleeping. When fighters discovered the ruse, they performed the beheading and forced the remaining hostages to bury the head, Mr. Samiahan said.

It took the military several days to mobilize and push Maute fighters back from western portions of the city and liberate the city hall and hydroelectric dams that provide most of Marawi’s power. The Maute fought back fiercely, killing several troops.

By May 28, bodies of at least 16 civilians had been recovered, according to military officials, including those of eight men who were dumped in a ravine—the number had climbed to at least 47 late last week. Several were shot in the head with hands bound, accompanied by a sign in a local language reading “traitor,” according to local media reports.

The Agus river separated the battle zone, left, and the safe zone in Marawi.

The Agus River bisects Marawi, with the central business district and Marawi’s largest mosque and church in the Maute-controlled east. Maute fighters fortified three bridges, presenting a formidable obstacle to the military’s counteroffensive, and soldiers who tried crossing were met with sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

The military, unused to urban warfare, called in airstrikes. Lacking guided munitions, the Philippine military divebombed the city with FA-50 jets and OV-10 Bronco propeller aircraft. On May 31, a badly aimed airstrike killed 11 soldiers. Government officials called it a tragic incident and launched a review.

In early June, the U.S. disclosed it was providing special forces assistance to Philippine troops but didn’t elaborate.

The constant aerial bombardment devastated Marawi’s center. Businessman Solaiman Mangorsi, 58, said he lost nearly $600,000 in damaged property after bombs struck areas that included a bookstore and other properties he owned. He said he wasn’t insured.

By mid-June, the battle had become a grind, with both sides digging in. Militants avoided airstrikes by boring holes in walls so they could move from house to house undetected.

A Christian hostage, Lordvin Acopio, a 29-year-old teacher, said militants forced him and other captives to make improvised explosives from firecrackers and shrapnel. They sent other hostages to search houses for guns, food and ammunition.

As the weeks passed, more hostages escaped. Mr. Samiahan, who witnessed the execution, broke free after discovering a padlock wasn’t properly closed. He made a mad dash for the military-held portion of the city, leaping over concrete barriers and plunging into the river and to safety.

Mr. Acopio escaped at night after a mosque he was held in was bombarded with tear gas. He and a priest scrambled through a hole blasted in the building, he said, and “just ran and ran and ran.”

Teacher Lordvin Acopio, 29, was held hostage by militants he says forced him to make improvised explosives.

By early September, the military had achieved several key victories, taking back landmarks including Marawi’s largest mosque. And it concluded, based on intercepted terrorist chatter, that Abdullah Maute had been killed in late August. By September’s end they had retaken the remaining bridges and pushed the militants into a few blocks bordering the lake.

The final battles were fought in close quarters. In one mission, Sgt. Roderick Peruandos of the Philippine Marine Corps, led a team to clear houses on the approach to what is known as the “White Mosque,” where senior militants including Mr. Hapilon were believed to be holding out. Moving room to room, they spotted a hole in the floor, when suddenly a homemade grenade was tossed out.

One corporal, who celebrated his 27th birthday with his squad just a few weeks earlier, was killed almost instantly, said Sgt. Peruandos. The grenade was made, he said, out of scrounged shrapnel and explosives from firecrackers and unexploded bombs dropped during airstrikes.

The other marines fled, leaving Sgt. Peruandos alone to fend off insurgents with rifle fire as he wrapped a tourniquet around his wounded leg. After an hour of bombardment, he crawled to safety, a bone in his leg snapped in two. The insurgents, though weakened, were left secure in their redoubt.

The government on Monday said Omar Maute and Mr. Hapilon had been killed, and the military said its offensive had boxed the remaining militant-controlled area to one or two hectares. The bodies of the two leaders were recovered and the remaining 30-odd fighters “were seen scampering in disarray,” the military said.
Displaced people from Marawi at an evacuation camp in Pantar district, southern Philippines. Photos: Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal(3)

If Marawi is declared militant-free, the Philippine government will then face painstaking work clearing improvised explosive devices and rebuilding the city. Tens of thousands of displaced people whose homes were destroyed remain in government-run camps.

Sgt. Peruandos, who has fought communist rebels and gangs in Mindanao for nearly all his 15-year military career, said he had never encountered an enemy like those who nearly killed him in Marawi. “It’s like they don’t care for their lives,” he said. “They just want to kill or be killed.”

After authorities declared the militant leaders dead, a pro-ISIS messenger channel said the group would train new recruits with combat knowledge learned from the battle, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity online. The channel declared: “Marawi is just the beginning!”

A government soldier took up position in the battle area of Marawi in September.


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GPF: Philippines wins battle but not the war
« Reply #124 on: October 25, 2017, 10:53:22 AM »
Against Jihadists, the Philippines Wins the Battle but Not the War
Oct 25, 2017
By Phillip Orchard

The Philippine government has declared victory in the battle of Marawi City, the provincial capital in the restive southern region of Mindanao that Islamic State-backed jihadists seized in May. Those who led the siege have been killed. With Marawi recaptured, the Islamic State’s most ambitious attempt to date to establish a “province” outside the Middle East and North Africa is over.

But the Marawi crisis underscored problems that will continue to dog the Philippines, a country that cannot fully control all its territory. It has become the arena in which Southeast Asia’s most pressing geopolitical issues play out but is mostly unable to resolve them on its own. A lasting peace in Marawi depends on how much foreign counterterrorism assistance Manila receives and how much support it earns among Mindanao’s moderate separatist groups – which are singularly capable of preventing the region from being used as a base for Southeast Asian jihadists – a growing concern as Islamic State fighters from the region return home from Syria and Iraq.

Mostly Contained

When it began, the Marawi siege took the international community by surprise. So too did the amount of time it took to root out the militants, who, the international community would soon learn, were entrenched, well-armed and protected by the scores of hostages they had taken. Its protraction is explained partly by the military’s aversion to using the kinds of tactics that would kill the hostages. But it is also explained by the inadequacy of the Philippine military. Footage of Philippine troops taking cover behind wood-plated armored personnel carriers showed just how dilapidated the armed forces are.

Manila had little choice but to court the international community for support, finding a familiar ally in the United States. In early June, U.S. special operations forces were seen on the ground near Marawi, officially in a training and advising role. The U.S. also expanded surveillance operations already underway in the Sulu Archipelago, a stronghold of one of the Islamic State-linked groups that joined forces to take the city, Abu Sayyaf. Shortly thereafter, more allies joined the fray. Australia sent P-3C Orion surveillance planes and deployed special operations forces to train their Philippine counterparts. Singapore sent surveillance drones. Russia and China sent thousands of rifles and vehicles.

 
(click to enlarge)

The siege, moreover, expedited long-delayed plans for the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to launch trilateral patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas, a vast expanse that has developed into a hub of piracy, militancy and black-market smuggling. In addition to the obvious benefits of securing lawless waters, the patrols may facilitate greater security cooperation among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which have long been hesitant or ill-equipped to band together to tackle regional security threats.

The results of the assistance are clear, if sometimes mixed. Thanks in part to the additional surveillance, the so-called Maute group and Abu Sayyaf, the jihadists responsible for the siege, were never able to open up a second front that would have stretched the Philippine armed force even thinner. Though it’s unclear how much the joint patrols and enhanced aerial surveillance in the Sulu and Celebes seas have disrupted flows of militants and materiel, the fighters that held Marawi did not appear to have received additional foreign support once operations to retake the city began in earnest. The jihadists never even succeeded in using their base to orchestrate major one-off terror attacks in Manila or other urban areas. (Of course, the recapture of Marawi doesn’t end the threat of attack posed by other jihadist cells or lone wolves.)
Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group took a major risk in attempting to capture and hold territory. And they had good reasons to do so. Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon — the Islamic State’s designated “emir” in Southeast Asia – had been under pressure from Islamic State leaders in the Middle East to make a headline-grabbing move outside of the group’s base on the island of Basilan, in the remote Sulu Archipelago. The region’s myriad other Islamic State-linked groups are small and largely disconnected, and IS hoped that Marawi could serve as proof of concept for a Southeast Asian province. But it has proved difficult for jihadist groups to hold territory, even in places where they have a lot of grassroots support. Defending a fixed area like Marawi gave Manila a place to concentrate its forces and a relatively straightforward battlefield objective. It also startled the international community into action.

Now that the fight is over, jihadists will likely try to regroup, stretching the Philippine military with multiple, albeit smaller hot spots across a wider area. To address the continuing threat, the Philippines will need the continued support of its allies. Notably, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attributed the rise of the Islamic State in the country to the drawdown of U.S. troops earlier this decade. The trilateral patrols are likewise important but remain a work in progress, since cooperation has routinely been hindered by lingering historical disputes and sovereignty concerns. Yet outside powers tend to lose interest when clear and present dangers go away, and new counterterrorism efforts may not benefit from the impetus for cooperation that Marawi brought about.

Fill the Voids

The Philippine military succeeded in disrupting the two strongest jihadist networks in Mindanao and in depriving the Islamic State of its primary foothold in Southeast Asia. But it has not killed the ideologies endemic to the region. And in Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao, where a dizzying mix of ethnic separatist groups have been acting against the state violently if intermittently for centuries, the ideological struggle is bound to the fate of their political aspirations.

The political problem is the stalled implementation of an agreement to establish a new semi-autonomous administrative region in Muslim-majority parts of Mindanao, to be known as Bangsamoro. The regional government would almost certainly be headed by Mindanao’s two strongest ethnic Moro separatist groups: the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Both groups are more moderate, larger and more powerful than their jihadist counterparts. Both see the jihadist groups as a direct threat to the viability of the new Bangsamoro region — and thus have the motivation to keep the jihadist movement largely in check. This is particularly important in remote areas that the Philippine military has never been able to fully subjugate. (In fact, the MILF has been cooperating closely with the Philippine military for years and played a central role in preventing an Islamic State-linked Moro splinter group from disrupting the Marawi operation.) Perhaps most important, their political objectives are tied directly to age-old Moro advocacy of autonomy, which has a broader appeal than the messages of the jihadists. The moderate groups can play a critical role in denying the jihadists grassroots support and sanctuary while providing the military critical intelligence and operational assistance.

However, the Bangsamoro Basic Law — the implementing legislation of the 2014 peace agreement with the MILF, which would formally establish the new Bangsamoro region — has stalled in the Philippine Congress, subject as it is to shifts in the political climate. The Marawi siege renewed a sense of urgency to pass the bill; President Rodrigo Duterte himself has endorsed it. But peace agreements have routinely fallen apart at similar stages in the Philippines, usually leading to spikes in violence. Fighting surged in Moro regions in 2008 after the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional an earlier peace deal. And the recruiting strength of the Maute group is a direct result of the failure of an earlier version of the Bansamoro law to find its way through in Congress. (It stalled after a 2015 outbreak of violence purportedly involving MILF fighters.)
The MILF and the MNLF need to show that the peace process with the government is bearing fruit to keep younger fighters in check and prevent the jihadists from gaining grassroots support. The jihadist threat will return in strength if moderate Moro groups do not believe it is in their interest to cooperate with the military. And now that the Islamic State has been dislodged from its capital in the Middle East, the threat will only intensify as militants return home to Southeast Asia.

Manila, of course, is hesitant to surrender control of the region to the MILF and the MNLF – and for good reason. The MILF has cultivated ties with foreign terrorist groups in the past and has sheltered foreign fighters, and the lines between it and splinter groups are blurred by clan loyalties. In a Catholic-majority country, the politics rarely favor sweeping concessions to the separatists, and military skepticism runs strong. Still, the Marawi siege leveled a provincial capital, exposing the limits of the state’s power in its restive south and its vulnerability to external forces. Manila’s partners — both foreign and domestic — are well-positioned to help fill the voids. It’s becoming harder for Manila to stomach the status quo.



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Stratfor: Could Militants in the Philppines Make a Comeback?
« Reply #127 on: April 26, 2018, 08:13:28 AM »
Could Militants in the Philippines Make a Comeback?
By Ben West
Global Security Analyst, Stratfor

Philippine lawmakers continue to wrangle over passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, adding to political uncertainty in Mindanao that could help Islamist militias there redevelop their strength.

Highlights

    Militant attacks, piracy and kidnapping continue to threaten the southern Philippines six months after the end of fighting in Marawi City.
    Although that threat has diminished, slow movement on the political front gives the threat more time and space to grow.
    Regional interconnectedness means that militant safe havens in the southern Philippines will continue to pose a threat to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Six months have passed since the Armed Forces of the Philippines officially wrapped up operations against Islamic State-aligned militants who had occupied Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao. Liberating the southern provincial capital yielded a significant peace dividend for the Philippine government. President Rodrigo Duterte continues to enjoy high popularity in the southern Philippines, local Moro leaders continue to support security forces in keeping the jihadist militant threat at bay, and despite anti-U.S. rhetoric emanating from Manila, cooperation with the United States on security matters has continued to grow. But the militant threat in the southern Philippines lingers, and underlying grievances driving the militancy remain largely unaddressed. At some point, the goodwill generated by the militants' defeat in Marawi City is going to run out, and the tenuous peace currently presiding over Mindanao will be tested over the next few months.

Many of the security trends that were playing out in October 2016 as security forces were eliminating the final militants in Marawi City remain in place. With the disintegration of the Maute group during the battle of Marawi City, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have continued to be Mindinao's most active militant group with Islamic State ties. Its activity is concentrated in Maguindanao province, situated between Davao and Cotabato City. The group, with an estimated 200 to 300 members, has carried out regular attacks against security forces. On March 11, Philippine troops killed scores of BIFF fighters, but 10 days later, the militants responded with an attack on a police station. Despite military defeats and other setbacks, BIFF continues to pose a threat in Maguindanao and surrounding provinces. Despite its preference to operate in more rural areas, its proximity to urban centers like Davao and Cotabato City means that an attack against those cities cannot be ruled out.

The Big Picture

Philippine forces chased away the last of the Islamic State-linked militants who had seized Marawi City in October, but the jihadists have continued to linger on Mindinao and could potentially rebuild. The more time and space that the militants are given to regroup in the southern Philippines, the greater threat they will pose to neighboring

Malaysia and Indonesia.
See The Jihadist Wars

A map showing the militant landscape in the southern Philippines

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, remnants of the Maute group are re-forming farther north in Lanao del Sur, in the rural areas outside Marawi City. What those militants lack in numbers — their strength is estimated to be around 200 fighters — they make up for in resources. Abu Dar, a militant who survived the Marawi City siege to succeed Isnilon Hapilon as leader of the Islamic State in the Philippines, reportedly escaped the siege with tens of millions of dollars worth of cash, gold and jewelry looted from the city. Abu Dar is thought to be using the riches to recruit young, disenfranchised fighters to join the jihadist cause and pick up where the Maute group left off. Malaysian authorities, however, have a different take, claiming that one of its citizens, Mohd Amin Baco, is the leader of the Islamic State in the Philippines. Regardless, reports of militant activity around Marawi City are scarce, suggesting that if militants are regrouping, they are doing so cautiously.

The Philippines is also home to the militant group Abu Sayyaf, which stretches out along the Sulu Archipelago. Its members continue to harass security forces at about the same rate as they did before and during the Marawi City siege: however, the Abu Sayyaf gangs that ran maritime piracy operations under the Islamic State flag have been largely unsuccessful over the past 12 months, at least compared to their activities in 2016 and 2017. Abu Sayyaf pirates captured dozens of hostages in 17 successful attacks on maritime targets from April 2016- April 2017. Since then, the groups have not managed any successful attacks. In large part, an increase in naval patrols by the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia can be credited for thwarting their attempts. Response times to distress calls are now measured in minutes instead of hours, and patrols have even managed to pick up on preoperational surveillance runs, stopping attacks before they even happen. But pirates in the area continue to pursue attacks, and sooner or later, they will be successful again. Shipping interests, resorts and other commercial interests in the Sulu and Celebes Sea region would be well advised to continue to guard against the threat of kidnappings.

Barriers to Success

There are a couple of political challenges ahead for Manila as it strives to fulfill its the promises to establish an autonomous region in the area most affected by the Marawi City siege and, at the same time, rebuild Marawi City. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been touted as the framework for undermining jihadist grievances in the southern Philippines by handing over more control to local Muslim leaders. Local leaders, supported by their communities, have repeatedly sought such authority, and since taking office, Duterte has promised to grant it to them.

But despite optimism that the Marawi City siege would finally attract enough political support to push the law through Congress, the Philippine Senate has missed deadline after deadline since October, threatening to undermine the Muslim leaders who have called for peace, and bolstering the jihadists who espouse that independence is the only option and autonomy under the Philippine government is a false promise. As of now, the Senate is aiming to pass the BBL by early June — around the time of the first anniversary of the May 23 attack on Marawi City that kicked off the five-month-long siege. Duterte, however, appears to be less optimistic about that timeline and is talking about passing it by the end of the year. Symbolically, commemorating the first anniversary of the attack on Marawi City without further progress on the BBL will be awkward; but if the legislation has not passed by the first anniversary of the end of the siege in October, it will severely test the local support Manilla and Duterte have enjoyed so far.

Eradicating militancy — or containing it, at the very least — is integral to the security of the southern Philippines. However, the potential for spillover into the rest of Southeast Asia raises serious concerns.

As national and local leaders struggle to rebuild a political arrangement to address the long-term militant threat in the southern Philippines, Marawi City is undergoing a much more literal reconstruction. Manila has approved more than $300 million to rebuild the city and, as anticipated, the specifics around the reconstruction are causing strife. Five Chinese firms are among the consortium involved in the reconstruction, a point that has led to a measure of protest by residents who are only now finally starting to return home. Not only does Chinese involvement raise concerns about reconstruction funds benefitting foreign instead of local interests, cooperation with China tends to inflame nationalist sentiments in the Philippines. The involvement of China — despite it being among the Philippines' largest trading partners and home to the kinds of engineering and construction companies capable of such projects — will create its own political issues. Public backlash against yet another plan for Marawi City has centered on the Philippine military's plans to build a base within the city limits — a move that locals fear would make them a target for further attacks but which the military sees as critical to securing the area. Large reconstruction projects are bound to miss deadlines, run over budgets and offend local sensibilities. If those pressures build on top of a stalled deal for political autonomy, the popular backlash would be potentially more damaging than the improvised bombs and small arms wielded by guerilla jihadist groups.

Are Militancies Contagious?

Finally, what transpires in the southern Philippines over the course of the year will affect the jihadist threat in the rest of southeast Asia. For at least the past two years, the southern Philippines have been the most permissive environment for Southeast Asian militant operations. As militants were planning and carrying out their attack on Marawi City, Indonesian and Malaysian security forces were at work dismantling other extremist groups such as Mujahidin Indonesia Timur and disrupting plots linked back to Muhammad Wanndy Jedi before he was killed in Syria. Their success against Islamic State supporters, coupled with the failure of Philippines security forces to dislodge militant groups from Mindanao, helped draw hundreds of foreign fighters into the Marawi City fight. For militants from Indonesia and Malaysia, attacks at home proved too difficult and travel to Iraq and Syria too harrowing — but jihadist networks were more than capable of smuggling fighters from Malaysia's Sabah and Indonesia's Kalimantan provinces into the southern Philippines. As Malaysian and Indonesian authorities continue to disrupt militant plots, they are finding that most schemes have some link back to the Philippines, either in the form of weapons, training, personnel or planning. As long as jihadism simmers in the Philippines, it will continue to pose a terrorist risk to the broader region.

As 2018 wears on, it will be important to watch for signs of increased threats from the southern Philippines. A more active threat in Maguindanao, either in the form of an urban attack or successful raid on security forces would be signs of a stronger BIFF. Likewise, increased aggression from the remnants of the (allegedly) wealthy militant survivors of the Marawi City siege farther north would be an indicator that security forces are struggling to keep them from regrouping. Further piracy activity in the Sulu and Celebes seas, including an eventual successful attack or a kidnapping that draws more attention is likely. Stability in the southern Philippines will also be closely tied to the progress of both the BBL and the rebuilding efforts in Marawi City. While all of these developments are, of course, integral to the security of the southern Philippines, the security situation there will have spillover potential into the rest of Southeast Asia as well. A pacified Mindanao will reduce the threat in Malaysia and Indonesia, while a resurgent militant threat will put more pressure on neighboring security forces to contain it.

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GPF: Philippines
« Reply #128 on: July 11, 2018, 07:01:41 PM »
The Philippine public is starting to lose faith in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.According to a prominent Philippine poll, Duterte’s approval rating is at its lowest since he took office. Though it was still at a robust 65 percent, it was conducted before Duterte provoked the highly influential Catholic Church by squaring off against the Almighty himself, calling God “stupid” and pledging to resign if anyone could prove his existence. This isn’t exactly out of character for Duterte; his disdain for political correctness helped bring him to office. But iconoclasm won’t solve his country’s economic problems, nor will it prevent him from having to implement a range of new subsidies on Wednesday to combat rising inflation. Naturally, this only amplifies questions many in the Philippines are asking: Where has all the Chinese aid and investment gone? Wasn’t that the price for backing off the South China Sea dispute?

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Stratfor: Calming Mindanao
« Reply #129 on: July 30, 2018, 09:07:03 AM »
IMHO the piece would be better if it assessed the risks of this turning into appeasement and separatism, and creating risks of dhimmitude
===============================================================================

After four years of delay, the Philippine government has fulfilled a key pledge to appease the ethnic Moro minority in the country's restive south. On July 26, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law. This starts the process of implementing a new autonomous region in Mindanao that will grant the Muslim group greater control over local affairs. While this will do much to erode the appeal of extremist and jihadist groups, numerous risks will arise during the long period of implementation.

The Big Picture

Stratfor's annual forecast noted that the Philippines would maintain its softer approach to China so it could focus on domestic priorities, particularly chronic unrest in the south. The passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law is a key benchmark in tamping down this unrest over the longer term, eventually freeing resources for a more outwardly-oriented foreign policy.


Getting Mindanao under control took renewed importance after the takeover of Marawi city by militants aligned with the Islamic State in 2017. Rebel groups have long demanded secession or, in more moderate modes, a greater degree of local control of politics, development and social issues. The new Bangsamoro region is meant to fulfill these demands, legitimizing the cooperative stance of the mainstream militant Moro Islamic Liberation Front over extremists.

The new Bangsamoro region will build upon, broaden and deepen an earlier autonomous entity, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The new region will feature a locally elected parliament empowered to set budget and development priorities, an expanded geographic footprint and a role for Sharia. These federalist-style concessions will help promote cooperation with the government.

When it comes to implementing the new law, poor execution runs the risk of lending credibility to those on the fringe, including jihadists.

However, Duterte's signature marks only the start of a long process that will almost certainly be beset with setbacks, delays and attempts by extremist groups to undermine the region's implementation and legitimacy. Already, major delays in winning congressional approval for the law have provided an opening for Islamic State-aligned groups to make inroads in Mindanao. The next step for the region entails holding a local referendum, a process that is sure to highlight geographic, clan and political rivalries. Implementation of the region and demobilization of armed rebels will add further complications. On top of all of this, the law will likely undergo a supreme court challenge. Any further setbacks risk lending credibility to those on the fringe, including jihadists.



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GPF: Philippines coup rumors are just rumors
« Reply #131 on: September 16, 2018, 07:36:12 AM »
By Phillip Orchard


In the Philippines, Coup Rumors Are Just Rumors


The days of political agitation by the military are long gone.


On Sept. 11, in an interview that’s bizarre and provocative even by his standards, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte challenged dissident soldiers to try to mount a rebellion. The firebrand president said he had evidence that a sitting senator and some communist rebels were plotting to assassinate him and seize power on Sept. 21, the anniversary of the declaration of martial law by deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This capped two weeks of high political drama that began when Duterte ordered the military and police to arrest the senator in question, Antonio Trillanes IV, a vocal Duterte critic who has regularly badgered the president about corruption allegations and accused him of being soft on China.

To be fair, Trillanes has a history of usurpation. As a junior naval officer, he helped lead a pair of failed uprisings in the mid-2000s. Former President Benigno Aquino granted Trillanes amnesty as part of a plea deal in 2011, but Duterte unilaterally revoked the deal on Aug. 31. The move set off a war of words between supporters of the president and those of Trillanes, with both sides trying to pull the military back into the political fray.

The military is mostly trying to stay out of it. On Monday, the head of the Philippine armed forces denied rumors that there was widespread discontent among the rank and file, yet he felt the need to remind them to stay out of politics. (The statement was a response to an incident in which a small group of soldiers and police tried to detain Trillanes but were blocked from entering the Senate, where Trillanes has been holed up.) The military also felt compelled to publicly deny rumors swirling in Manila of “unusual troop movements." Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, reprising what’s become a familiar role, downplayed the president’s claims and said the military wouldn’t detain Trillanes unless the courts issued a warrant, though he backed up Duterte’s claims about communist rebel involvement in the alleged plot. Notably, however, the military is also believed to have leaked documents supporting the validity of Trillanes’ original amnesty deal.

Along with the military’s apparent refusal to act on Duterte’s extrajudicial arrest order, this raises questions about the military’s loyalty to the president. Still, it’s unlikely that Duterte is in real trouble. Coup rumblings have dogged Duterte since before his inauguration in 2016, the rumor mill fueled by his divergence from the defense establishment on the South China Sea dispute, his outreach to Muslim Moro separatists and communist rebels, and the unpopularity of his drug war with the politically influential Catholic Church.

But there’s never been much substance to the rumors — even in late 2016, when Duterte issued an order restricting military personnel to their barracks, ostensibly as a way to prevent them from joining mass demonstrations against the burial of Marcos in the national heroes’ cemetery. Duterte has even generally welcomed the rumors, while hinting that he may step down to make way for a hand-picked successor before his six-year term expires anyway.

The days of political agitation by the Philippine military, which helped bring an end to the Marcos regime and then promptly tried and failed four times to oust his successor, appear to be long gone. The last time the military played any role as kingmaker was in 2001, when it declared that it would not crack down on mass protests against former President Joseph Estrada, leading to his resignation under corruption allegations. The two “coup” attempts led by Trillanes in 2003 and 2007 against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo amounted to little more than seizing control of a pair of luxury hotels in a Manila business district.

Indeed, despite its reputation for political adventurism, the Philippine military is too divided along factional and socio-economic lines to take out presidents, and has been for some time. For a coup to succeed in the Philippines, it would need the support of the public, civil society groups and factions of the security apparatus outside the armed forces. There are few signs of any of these elements today. Duterte's approval ratings have dipped somewhat, but he still commands a lot of public support. Protests against his drug war failed to gain momentum. He’s successfully navigated some of the most contentious parts of his agenda, including the Mindanao peace process. By all accounts, he’s broadly popular with the rank-and-file of the military, and he's had two years to stack the senior brass with loyalists and dole out pay raises across the board. He’s gradually abandoned his anti-U.S. rhetoric and moderated his outreach to China. If Trillanes had the backing to pose a real threat, it’s doubtful that he’d be hiding out in his Senate office.

(click to enlarge)

Even so, the latest standoff shouldn’t be dismissed as mere political theater. The battle for the Philippines between the United States and China isn’t going to be settled anytime soon, and the political strength of a Philippine leader will play a small role in that regard. It’s notable, then, that Trillanes’ corruption allegations have elicited such a strong response from the president. (Another opposition senator who’s been needling the president on corruption was jailed last year.) Philippine presidents, more often than not, have left office under clouds of corruption. This particular episode comes as Manila and Beijing are moving to reach an agreement on joint oil and gas exploration in parts of the South China Sea that the U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled are in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to visit for talks on joint development next week.

Any deal on the matter promises to be legally contentious and politically risky, inviting accusations of the president selling resources to a country that has blocked every Philippine attempt to develop its own oil and natural gas. A similar agreement between Manila and Beijing reached in 2003 fell apart by 2008 over corruption allegations against Arroyo – the president Trillanes twice tried to oust. The Philippines’ existing fields are rapidly depleting, so Manila is desperate to find a way to bring new fields online in the South China Sea. And with Western powers declining to intervene on Manila’s behalf, the Philippines has little choice but to negotiate on Beijing’s terms. There are some fights that Philippine presidents can’t help but pick.




Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Philippines-- ratified referendum
« Reply #132 on: January 25, 2019, 05:00:52 PM »
The Big Picture

As the Philippines attempts to focus on its domestic issues, Manila has engaged in a conciliatory outreach to China. Now that it is focusing less energy on its territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, the country has more resources to devote to working on its domestic troubles. Unrest in the southern Philippines has been a major driver of instability in the country but, through a recent referendum win, Manila has taken a major step toward quieting its domestic conflicts.
See Asia-Pacific section of the 2019 Annual Forecast

What Happened

The Philippines has taken a major step toward putting its house in order. On Jan. 25, the country's election commission ratified the results of this week's referendum in the restive Muslim Moro south, confirming that 87 percent of voters approved the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Thanks to concessions from the Philippine government as part of a 2014 peace deal, the region will be granted the increased local control that its residents have long demanded.

The plebiscite was held in five provinces and two cities, though not all areas approved the measure. Isabela City in Basilan rejected the proposal by a small margin, meaning it will not be included in the new region. Sulu province, on the other hand, will be included despite its "no" vote because it voted as a unit alongside four other provinces, all of which voted in favor of the autonomous region.

Why It Matters

The overwhelming public support for the law can be taken as an affirmation that voters broadly back the conciliatory position that mainstream Moro militant leaders have adopted. However, broad swaths of the population still favor a more extremist position, and the threat of terrorism is very much alive in Mindanao. The region is still under martial law, and its deep geographic and clan divisions mean the ground is fertile for further militant or terrorist activity. A bomb plot was foiled in the lead-up to the referendum, at least two grenade attacks were carried out on the day of the vote, and a firefight broke out in Lanao del Sur between Philippine troops and Islamic State militants at the tail end of the week.

By obtaining such a landslide approval for the Bangsamoro Autonomous region, the Philippines has taken a major step toward quieting the conflict in Mindanao.

The desire to free resources for dealing with internal issues was, at least in part, the driving force behind Manila's attempts to resolve its territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea. The centurieslong conflict in Muslim Mindanao has been chief among these domestic problems, alongside an ongoing communist insurgency and deep economic disparities among regions. By obtaining such a landslide approval for the Bangsamoro Autonomous region, the Philippines has taken a major step toward quieting the conflict in Mindanao. Among other impacts, greater peace in Mindanao could mean that Manila will be able to devote more troops to dealing with communist insurgents elsewhere.

Internationally speaking, the vote could also give the Philippines more resources to use in its outreach to China, though this will take some time yet. If and when the region becomes stable enough, Chinese investment will be a valuable tool for developing Mindanao's infrastructure and alleviating internal inequality — provided China can overcome local obstacles and deliver. However, some voices in Philippine politics are still clamoring for Manila to more proactively protect its maritime claims in the South China Sea and persuade the United States to commit to defending Philippine interests there. The Philippine-U.S. military relationship suffered a lull following the 2016 election of President Rodrigo Duterte, but the relationship is now recovering as both countries look for ways to counter China's rise in the region.

Background

The referendum is a major milestone for the 2014 peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) militant group. The agreement has been marred by legislative setbacks and the Islamic State takeover of a city in Mindanao, but the successful referendum has paved the way for future votes. On Feb. 6, additional areas in Mindanao will hold their own referendums to decide whether they, too, will join the new Bangsamoro region, beginning a yearlong transition period before the new region is finally implemented. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region will hold its first regional election in 2022 and, in the meantime, the MILF will helm an interim government.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: The Philippines tries to save a treaty
« Reply #133 on: February 11, 2019, 09:36:51 AM »
maps will not print here:

The Philippines Tries to Save a Treaty

What are the security options for a country that can dictate terms to neither friend nor foe?

Phillip Orchard |February 8, 2019




Next week, the U.S. and the Philippines will open exploratory talks on salvaging their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. This comes after a month of renewed drama that has come to typify the hot-and-cold relationship between the U.S. and its oldest security treaty ally in Asia. In late December, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for a comprehensive review of the treaty for updating. A week later, he announced that Manila had begun studying the possibility that the pact could be scrapped altogether.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to withdraw from the treaty repeatedly since his election in 2016. Duterte says a lot of things, often changes his mind before the sun has set over Manila Bay, and is mostly incapable of fundamentally restructuring Philippine foreign policy to his personal tastes, anyway. But this particular warning came from Lorenzana – an advocate for robust U.S.-Philippine ties, a former attache to the Pentagon, and a Philippine defense establishment check on Duterte – suggesting that the anxieties Manila has about U.S. security commitments are born not from the vagaries of Duterte but from a more immutable set of circumstances: The U.S. and the Philippines face a common threat in China but have starkly divergent views on how to manage it.

Arguments Ring Hollow

The main problem with the treaty, according to Lorenzana, is that the U.S. won’t confirm that it includes Philippine holdings in disputed parts of the South China Sea. The treaty says the U.S. is obligated to respond to “an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.” But the text leaves some room for interpretation on what would actually trigger the treaty – and what “acting to meet common dangers” in such an event actually means in practice. This debate isn’t academic; this week, for example, imagery published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies showed as many as 90 Chinese naval, coast guard and fishing vessels near Pag-asa Island, the Philippines’ largest holding in the Spratlys, ostensibly in response to Manila’s plans to resume work on a beaching ramp on the island.


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For Washington, the ambiguity is at least partly deliberate. When the pact was signed in 1951, it argues, the Philippines did not yet control the nine features in the hotly contested Spratly archipelago that it does today. The U.S. is officially neutral on the territorial dispute, which began in earnest in the late 1980s, emphasizing instead that such matters should be resolved in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on a case brought by Manila invalidated Beijing’s claims that its Spratly holdings were entitled to territorial seas, but it did not rule on the rightful ownership of any of the reclaimed islands. So if the U.S. were to formally include the South China Sea in the treaty, it would ostensibly abandon a policy it applies in disputed hot spots around the world – one that serves the broader U.S. interest of bolstering a “rules-based” international order.

But this argument rings hollow to Manila for several reasons. For one, in 2015, the Obama administration agreed to updated guidelines in its Mutual Defense Treaty with Japan that, in no uncertain terms, included the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan in the East China Sea. Washington can point to minor differences in the language of the two treaties to defend its position, but it’s the kind of legalistic rationale you invoke only if you’re looking to keep a pact weak. (The U.S. hasn’t always been so circumspect. The Clinton administration twice confirmed that the treaty covered the South China Sea, even though the Philippine Senate voted to boot the U.S. Navy from its strategically invaluable base at Subic Bay in 1991.)

Perhaps most telling, the legal case for covering the Scarborough Shoal, just 130 miles (210 kilometers) from Luzon, is more straightforward. The U.S. formally took administrative control of the resource-rich reef from Spain in 1900 following its victory in the Spanish-American War, and the Philippines acquired formal control upon gaining independence in 1946. The Philippines established a U.S. naval operating area covering a 20-mile radius around Scarborough Shoal in the 1960s, and the two allies used the reef as bombing range into the early 1980s.

Yet, when Chinese forces seized the shoal in 2012, the U.S. declined to forcefully intervene. The Obama administration reportedly warned China in 2016 that it would consider an attempt to turn Scarborough Shoal into yet another artificial island a red line. But neither the Obama nor the Trump administration has moved to stop China from exercising effective control over the surrounding waters. Nor has the U.S. expressed any willingness to defend Manila’s right to drill for oil in waters the U.N. tribunal determined were Philippine. From Manila’s viewpoint, in other words, the U.S. is going out of its way to keep the Philippines at arms’ length.

Words on Paper

Unfair as it may appear, the U.S. has strategic reasons to keep its options open. It doesn’t want to get dragged into a war with China, at least not one that wasn’t started on its terms, and so it doesn’t want to give the Philippines reason to think the U.S. will automatically have its back if it picks a fight it can’t win on its own. The U.S. is basically content with the status quo in the South China Sea. It doesn’t really need to escalate matters there to contain China on other fronts. So long as the Chinese navy can’t challenge the U.S. Navy directly, the U.S. is happy to cripple China by choking its maritime traffic along the first island chain and around the Strait of Malacca.

The problem for the U.S. is that this strategy gives the Philippines little choice but to do whatever it deems necessary to remain friendly with China. Over the past two years, this has meant limiting the scale of cooperation with the U.S., presumably at Beijing’s behest, while allowing China to gradually expand its commercial and political influence in the country in ways that could come back to haunt the U.S.

For example, Manila has dramatically slowed implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a 2014 deal providing U.S. forces with rotational access to five Philippine bases. Construction on U.S. facilities was delayed by more than two years before finally breaking ground earlier this month. Two bases, including the one closest to the Spratlys, may now be excluded, and any hope that the deal would expand in scope, which Duterte’s predecessor’s administration assumed was inevitable, has been quashed.


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Meanwhile, Chinese firms are making plays for assets at what were once the U.S.’ two most important bases in Luzon – Clark airfield and Subic Bay naval base. There’s no guarantee that commercial ownership will mean China will ever be able to get these assets for military purposes. We’re skeptical of the strategic utility of so-called Chinese “debt traps” in general. But the potential threat is real enough that those concerned about China across the region are moving to counter or block outright Chinese acquisitions of strategically valuable infrastructure abroad. (Lorenzana, for example, is calling for the government to take over the shipyard at Subic Bay to keep it out of Chinese hands.) Perhaps just as important, in November, Manila approved entry to the Philippine market of a wireless consortium led by China Telecom, which is likely to aid Chinese efforts to export fifth-generation wireless technologies to strategically important states, the military implications for which are potentially game-changing.

Ultimately, to blow a hole in the U.S. containment line, China needs one of the countries along the first island chain to flip fully into its camp. Weak as it is, the Philippines may be China’s best bet, even if it’s not an especially good bet. Even if Manila scrapped the Mutual Defense Treaty outright, it wouldn’t automatically bring the U.S.-Philippine partnership to an end. In practice, the U.S. hasn’t been cooperating with the Philippines substantially more than it has been with other regional allies with which it has no formal treaty. And in any case, Washington and Manila struck a more detailed and arguably more important visiting forces agreement in 1999 that has facilitated the bulk of recent cooperation, including U.S. assistance in the Philippines’ fight against jihadist militants in Mindanao. (On the other hand, the EDCA would likely need to be renegotiated if the Mutual Defense Treaty is snuffed out. This would be a substantive setback to bilateral cooperation.)

The Duterte administration’s outreach to Beijing is less an expression of preference for China over the U.S. than one of a desire to keep its options open. Nearly every strategically located state on China’s periphery is keen to play the U.S. and China off each other, and to balance ties with any number of outside powers, to their advantage. The Philippines has been eagerly deepening military cooperation with U.S. allies like Japan, Australia and South Korea accordingly.

Still, countries as weak as the Philippines don’t get to dictate terms, whether to friends or to foes, and an “omnidirectional” foreign policy is no substitute for using the U.S. to deter the Chinese. Treaties are only as relevant as the strategic logic underpinning them, but they can be important for facilitating things like military interoperability, intel-sharing and basing agreements – the flesh and bones of a balance of power strategy. A Chinese alliance with Manila, then, may never be in the cards. But a divided, uncertain Philippines – one vulnerable to influence and fruitlessly trying to keep its own options open – is the next best thing.

Crafty_Dog

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The U.S. supports an ally. During a visit to Manila on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea would trigger mutual defense obligations under Article IV of our Mutual Defense Treaty.” The U.S.-Philippine alliance has been listing, and China has responded with increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. But as we noted recently, the U.S. has for the past two decades avoided saying whether it would help defend Philippine claims in the South China Sea under the treaty, and Manila has been urging Washington to make a firmer commitment (as it did with Japan and the East China Sea in 2015). There are still holes in Pompeo’s interpretation wide enough to steer a frigate through, but it’s a step forward for the alliance.