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Old 10-07-2012   #21
Dayuhan
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Draft agreement is here:

http://pcdspo.gov.ph/downloads/2012/...t-10062012.pdf

Will try to have a closer read and post some comments tomorrow, but initial reactions...

It's not all all clear how this is meant to differ from the ARMM, beyond some territorial revisions.

The reaction of the Mindanao settler population will be critical, and remains to be determined. This population is politically potent, has widespread support among the non-Mindanao populace, has derailed a previous agreement, and generally sees accommodation with the MILF as antithetical to its interests.

It's not clear that the Tausug, Yakan, and Sama populations of Basilan, Jolo and associated islands (where the ASG has been rooted and the core operational area of OEF/P) will accept an agreement negotiated by the predominantly Maguindanao/Maranao leadership of the MILF.

They're talking about a signing on the 15th, it will be interesting to see what reactions emerge.
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Old 10-08-2012   #22
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http://www.rappler.com/nation/13750-...ro-soon-on-map

President Aquino is saying all the right things in this press release. Based on the strategic perspective of insurgency that I regularly promote on this venue, this current effort by the government of the Philippines is spot on. I agree with how they are defining the problem as well as how they are describing the intended effects of this new legislation.

Revolutionary and Resistance insurgencies are much more illegal politics than war, and are endeavors taken on by populaces who have come to believe that their current system is intolerable and that they have no legal recourse to address the same. Recognizing the reasonable perceptions of such populaces and dedicating the entire system of governance to evolve to address those most critical perceptions is key.

Quote:
"The ARMM is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun. We cannot change this without structural reform," he said.

"This framework agreement is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued the efforts of the past; it is about learning hard lessons and building on the gains we have achieved," the President said.


These critical perceptions form a figurative "circle of trust" that individuals and populace groups either feel that they are within or without; that they are empowered to effect legally or only illegally. Managing the circle of trust is a critical function of governance everywhere, be it formal or informal in nature. Trust is hard to build and easy to destroy, so this is not easy task and will take time, but the journey must begin with the first step.

It is worth remembering that we continue our own journey on this path in the US as we continue to work to overcome the prejudices that affect good governance within our own borders. The saving grace for the US is that the people by and large still believe they have some modicum of ability to legally address, or at least express, their concerns with both governance and government. We should be more diligent in protecting and improving the important aspects of what makes our own society reasonably stable, but I really don't think most appreciate the nuance of what is truly important. That tends to get lost in the noise of what is crurrently urgent.

The devil is in the details, and it is easier to say one is going to rise above their prejudices than it is to actually do so. In my opinion this effort provides a strategic framework for getting to a more stable situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. I wish the people of the Philippines well on this latest course change to address this ancient problem. They may be 100 years from achieving what we in the US see as reasonable stability, but our perceptions matter little, and I for one believe they are on the right track.
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Old 10-09-2012   #23
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I am less sanguine, as one might expect. If it was possible to pigeonhole the conflict as "oppressed Muslim populace vs centralized imperial government", then an autonomous government might help, but the conflict is a lot more complicated than that.

After reading it a few times, I will say this much: despite the lack of specifics, much of which will have to be resolved in the "basic law" for the region that is still to be formulated, this is probably about as much as the Philippine Government could have brought out of peace talks with the MILF. That said, it will not solve the problem. It may create a window of opportunity during which the real problems could be addressed, but whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. Precedents are not encouraging.

Effectively what the agreement does is carve out a largely (not entirely) Muslim-majority area and designate it "Bangsamoro", literally "Moro Nation" but applicable to either a territory or a populace. The territory is slightly larger than the old ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) and the degree of autonomy is somewhat greater. Both the territory and the degree of autonomy are substantially less than what would have been provided in the monumentally flawed MOA/AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) that was shot down by the Supreme Court several years ago.

What the agreement does not address is the scourge of big man politics, the single greatest obstacle to peace and prosperity in Mindanao. In some ways the autonomous status of the region may even exacerbate that scourge, as any effort by central government to bring local big men within the rule of law will be presented by those threatened as constraints on local governance.

The immediate conflict set up by the agreement is between the former rebels who aspire to positions in the new autonomous government and the Muslim big men who have been cooperating with government and occupying political positions in the old ARMM and the other areas included in the autonomous region. The rebel leaders have some credibility for having fought and for having forced an agreement, but the existing political elite have a lot of money (gained through exorbitant corruption) and well established patronage networks. Even in their base areas in Central Mindanao it's not in any way clear that MILF leaders can displace the seasoned political operators of the dominant clans, even with the Ampatuans out of play to a large extent.

The most likely outcome, in my cynical view, is a mad scramble for advantageous places at the feeding trough offered by the new governmental entity. That will be accompanied by a decrease in organized "rebel vs government" violence, but an uptick in "candidate vs candidate" violence. Once the places are grabbed, those who get in will move to build patronage and cement their positions, those on the outside will accuse them of corruption and other assorted evils. The losers will end up on the periphery, disgruntled, angry, and prime candidates for recruitment by more radical groups.

Previous efforts at autonomy have foundered not because they were not autonomous enough, but because they were ruled through an antiquated and destructive "big man" system that effectively created feudal lords with absolute power in their turf. The central government typically cut deals with the feudal powers, effectively trading off immunity from law for guaranteed votes and assurances that the feudal lords would suppress rebellion in their territory (latter promise often not pursued with any great vigor). Those deals had a pretty pernicious effect and are not conducive to long term peace or development.

The problem is how to grant the politically necessary autonomy while still trying to control the rapacious and feudal local elites that are such a burden on the region. This agreement is not going to solve that problem, but it's not certain that any agreement would. What could have a really positive impact would be a decisive effort by central government to arrest and prosecute some of the worst offenders in the fields of corruption, collusion with criminal elements, human rights violations, etc, and deliver the message that it's serious about bringing its own people within the rule of law... but that is not going to happen.

This agreement will probably have little impact in the OEF/P area of operations, for the most part outside core MILF territory. It would IMO be a good excuse for the US to reduce the commitment and announce a plan for eventually phasing it out. There needs to be an end to every operation and I think this one is past the point of diminishing marginal returns... not that cooperation shouldn't continue, but I think scaling down the deployment in the conflict area in the south makes good sense at this time.
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Last edited by Dayuhan; 10-09-2012 at 01:29 AM.
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Old 10-25-2012   #24
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Default One local perspective...

I'm not sure that it's as bad as this, but some of the points are valid:

http://opinion.inquirer.net/39388/aq...-on-the-nation

Quote:
Aquino-MILF pact a curse on the nation

Rather than a legacy of peace, President Aquino’s pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front contained in the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” will be his curse on the nation. The consequences of the pact, renewed violence in Mindanao and even terrorist attacks in urban centers, will outlive his term, and will be one of the biggest headaches of the next president.

We have to disabuse ourselves of the naive, sappy “give-peace-a-chance” mentality that peace accords always lead to the silencing of guns...
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Old 10-25-2012   #25
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Dayuhan,

I don't know if it is as bad as the author makes out, but I do agree if the peace deal goes bad it will likely lead to another surge in fighting/killing. The younger members of the MILF are not as interested in peace as the senior leaders of MILF whose time is probably short. A lot of potential spoilers on both sides of the fence.

Quote:
We have to disabuse ourselves of the naive, sappy “give-peace-a-chance” mentality that peace accords always lead to the silencing of guns. From Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler, to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that led to the fall of Saigon, to the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian War but led to the “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo, ill-conceived peace pacts in the world’s history have often led to greater hostilities. Violence after failed peace pacts intensifies as the parties claim that they were betrayed, infuriating their fighters to fierceness.
This quote, also from the article you linked to is disappointing if true:

Quote:
The military brass weren’t even invited to the ceremony attended by over 100 MILF commanders. An Army general in the field lamented: “That omission struck deep in the heart of our soldiers. No credit was given for the AFP’s vital role in creating the conditions for peace talks to proceed. Mr. Aquino praised the efforts of the MILF but not the AFP, as if our soldiers were the aggressors, not the noble defenders of our land. ”
How deadly has the conflict been?

http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita.../para/milf.htm

Quote:
On 07 October 2012 it was announced that the Philippine government had reached a preliminary peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, to end the four decade long insurgency that had killed more than 120,000 people.
relevant history:

Quote:
Formal peace talks between the MILF and the government began in April 2004, when a peace deal was scheduled to be signed in September 2006. In 2008, when both parties were in the very last throes of hashing out a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) agreement, the Philippine high court called some provisions unconstitutional and this sparked a rebellion within the MILF that left hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
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Old 10-25-2012   #26
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What President Aquino is attempting is the most strategic bit of COIN I have seen by any government in the past 12 years. Will it work? Well, there are a 1000 ways it could go bad, but it starts with a strategic level of understanding of the nature of insurgency in general and the nature of this particular problem they are attempting to address. It takes ownership on the part of government to evolve to better address the reasonable concerns of a segment of the populace that has always been treated separately, but not equally.

This is a model we should adopt for Afghanistan. It is the model that the government of Yemen should adopt. It is the model that makes the most sense for the growing challenges Egypt has in the Sinai. Obviously each would need to be tailored to the realities of their specific situation.

As to the author of the article that Dayuhan shared the link on: While that piece surely recommends the majority position on these types of conflicts, I would only offer that the record of the majority is hardly one to brag about...

Thinking about revolutionary insurgency as war is perhaps the least appropriate and least effective way to solve these types of problems that lead to revolution. Yes one can suppress or defeat the insurgent, but invariably the insurgency grows from the process, coming back again and again until something changes in governance or the people prevail.

This is not resistance, this is revolution, and that is a very different type of conflict. The relationship between the parties and the primary purposes for action are the key criteria for framing these types of problems. Ideology applied or tactics employed are interesting at the tactical level, but have little place in a strategic discussion geared to understanding and framing the problem. We in the West are trapped in a world of tactics and one that sees governments as victims in such conflicts. We need to evolve, and this is a great guide for that evolution.
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Old 10-25-2012   #27
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Default Maybe, it's the model that Astan should adopt;

but, it sure as hell isn't the model that:

Quote:
from BW
"... we should adopt for Afghanistan.
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Old 10-26-2012   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
What President Aquino is attempting is the most strategic bit of COIN I have seen by any government in the past 12 years. Will it work? Well, there are a 1000 ways it could go bad, but it starts with a strategic level of understanding of the nature of insurgency in general and the nature of this particular problem they are attempting to address. It takes ownership on the part of government to evolve to better address the reasonable concerns of a segment of the populace that has always been treated separately, but not equally.
Possibly a bit overrated. In substance this isn't all that different from the model Marcos used to disable the MNLF: offer a nominal autonomy, get senior rebel leaders into lucrative positions in the new autonomous government, and get them inside the tent pissing out instead of outside the tent pissing in. The people, of course, still get pissed on, and those left out in the cold become prime bait for recruitment by more radical or violent groups, just as those left out in the cold in the MNLF settlement were ripe for recruitment by the Abu Sayyaf.

This kind of settlement is not a solution. It can provide a window of opportunity within which a solution to the real problems can be pursued, but unless those problems are recognized and confronted, that isn't likely to happen. There's little evidence that this is happening.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
This is not resistance, this is revolution, and that is a very different type of conflict.
That would depend on perspective. Many Muslims in the souith (and many of the indigenous groups in the north) do see Manila's military and the settlers as an occupying force, and might consider themselves to be a resistance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
I don't know if it is as bad as the author makes out, but I do agree if the peace deal goes bad it will likely lead to another surge in fighting/killing. The younger members of the MILF are not as interested in peace as the senior leaders of MILF whose time is probably short. A lot of potential spoilers on both sides of the fence.
The author of the article is in the camp of the previous administration, and has a vested interest in opposing the agreement, but the points he raises are repeated by many who don't like the idea. In many cases the reflexive reaction is that the agreement is an act of appeasement toward terrorists. How the deal will fare in the legislative brance or the courts is difficult to predict, but the administration does have a fair degree of influence in both.

For me the biggest problem with the agreement is that it treats the problem purely in terms of political structure, with no acknowledgement of the degree to which political culture has obstructed all efforts at development and peacemaking. As long as the culture of corruption, abuse, and elite impunity continues, structural approaches will have limited impact. Manila's problem, as ever, is less how to bring the rebels within the rule of law than how to bring its own agents within the rule of law.
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Old 10-26-2012   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
but, it sure as hell isn't the model that:



Regards

Mike
Mike,

No arguments. After 12 years ISAF / US is only just now starting to truly get serious about recognizing Afghan sovereignty. And we wonder why we can't seem to get in front of that problem. We are also just starting to realize that what we have thought was important is not at all what the current government of Afghanistan thinks is important.

So, yes, this is a model the government of Afghanistan should adopt. I actually think it is much more likely that they will do something along these lines as we begin to pull out than it is for ISAF switching to such an approach.

cheers,

Bob
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 10-27-2012   #30
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Default Another thing...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
The relationship between the parties and the primary purposes for action are the key criteria for framing these types of problems.
Talking about "the relationship between the parties" oversimplifies and misrepresents the situation, because in fact there are multiple parties involved, often with widely divergent interests. It's not just the MILF and the Government. The Christian settler bloc and the Muslim traditional politicians that have been allied with Government haven't openly opposed the agreement, but will be trying to manipulate it to serve their interests. MNLF factions have expressed displeasure, less with the agreement than with their exclusion from the negotiating process. The ASG has little political influence but will do what it can to disrupt. There are sub-factions within each of these groups, and within the MILF and the Government. It's messy.
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Old 02-18-2013   #31
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Default Unintended consequences...

Brief description of ongoing incident:

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/5...sabah-standoff
Quote:
The Philippines on Saturday called for a peaceful resolution to a tense stand-off between Malaysian forces and a group of gunmen claiming to be followers of the heir of a former Borneo sultan.

The group, estimated at 200 with dozens believed to be armed, landed by boat near the Borneo town of Lahad Datu in Malaysia's Sabah state from the neighboring Philippines on Tuesday.

Police say the group has declared itself followers of a former Philippine-based Islamic sultanate that once controlled parts of Borneo, including the standoff site, and is refusing to leave Malaysian territory.
Further coverage:

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/5...t-leave-borneo

Quote:
Followers of a Philippine sultan who crossed to the Malaysian state of Sabah this month will not leave and are reclaiming the area as their ancestral territory, the sultan said Sunday amid a tense standoff.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram said his followers -- some 400 people including 20 gunmen -- were resolute in staying despite being cornered by security forces, with the Kuala Lumpur government insisting the group return to the Philippines.

"Why should we leave our own home? In fact they (the Malaysians) are paying rent (to us)," he told reporters in Manila.

"Our followers will stay in (the Sabah town of) Lahad Datu. Nobody will be sent to the Philippines. Sabah is our home," he said....
Little background:

Quote:
The southern Philippine-based Islamic sultanate once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the stand-off, and its heirs have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah.
The Sultan leased the area to the British in perpetuity for a nominal annual payment, which independent Malaysia has continued to pay. There's been occasional agitation for a Philippine claim to Sabah based on the assumption that when the Sultanate ceased to exist as a sovereign entity the claim was absorbed by the Philippine Government, but this incursion does not appear to be sanctioned by Manila.

The connection to the recent peace agreement:

Quote:
Kiram said he was prompted to send the group to Sabah after the sultanate was left out of a framework agreement sealed in October between Manila and Filipino Muslim rebels, which paves the way for an autonomous area in the southern Philippines that is home to the Muslim minority of the largely-Christian nation.
There's some talk that other groups intend to follow, but the Malaysian Navy says they won't let them approach the shore. Malaysia says the group will be deported, the group says they won't go. Unclear how it will all work out. Also unclear whether the Sultan's family seriously thinks they can settle people in Sabah or whether they're looking for some money to get them to stop making trouble. An increase in the nominal rent has been occasionally mentioned by the Sultan's family, and ignored by the Malaysians.

Another recent development that may be an unexpected consequence of the peace agreement is that the MNLF has recently gone after some ASG units, quite aggressively:

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/zamboanga/...-sayyaf-267276

The attacks were not sanctioned or expected by the Government and the reasoning behind them is not entirely clear. Part of the reason may be an MNLF effort to push their way back into a place at the negotiating table.

New news, the group in Sabah wants to leave, but first wants to meet with "certain personalities", whcih the Malaysians refuse:

http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%...18-402657.html

And a bit more, bit of a hint of how Malaysians see the whole idea:

http://thestar.com.my/columnists/sto...Man%27s%20Meat

We shall see...
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Old 02-18-2013   #32
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Default And a bit more...

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/18/wo...ines-standoff/

Quote:
Filipinos' standoff in Borneo linked to peace deal with Muslim rebels

...The members of the sultanate's royal family, although riven by internal disputes over who the rightful sultan is today, appear to have felt isolated by the provisional accord signed in October by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has fought for decades to establish an independent Islamic state in southern Philippines.

Malaysia, a mainly Muslim country, helped facilitate the agreement.

Kiram was cited by AFP as saying that the sultanate's exclusion from the deal, which aims to set up a new autonomous region to be administered by Muslims, prompted the decision to send the men to Sabah this month.

Dispatching the boat loads of followers to Lahad Datu served to make the sultanate's presence felt, according to Wadi.

"The whole aim is not to create conflict or initiate war, it is just to position themselves and make governments like Malaysia and the Philippines recognize them," he said....
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Old 02-22-2013   #33
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This:

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/20...ge-peace-talks

Raises an interesting question... who's paying for the so-called "sultan's army".
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Old 08-30-2013   #34
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Got two MG520s (Philippine Air Force variant of the AH-6) shooting up the ridge just north of here, can see them from the upstairs window. There was an encounter yesterday morning one ridge over, 2 reported wounded from a police counterinsurgency unit. It would be surprising if the NPA unit was still in the area, but I guess possible that they could have been lying low in the mossy forest (easy place to hide, hard to move).

Just on the edge of too close for comfort...
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Old 08-30-2013   #35
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Yeah, that is close!
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Old 08-30-2013   #36
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This is how it hit the news:

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/6...-npa-in-sagada

That's kind of over-dramatized, it wasn't really that close to villages. I was out there yesterday morning and it seemed like half the village was out watching. School was effectively out, the kids were all out checking out the helicopters. Didn't see anyone cowering in terror, though it does make people uneasy. They weren't shooting at "suspected lairs" of the NPA; it's a place they pass through, not a place they stay.

It's near and at the same time not so; that are is just north of us and the fighting generally moves away north into the wild country, not south into the town. That area is a junction of main trails running through the mountains and linking a number of areas; it's always a focus of attention after any kind of encounter, as the routes the NPA take to get out splinter off from there. I have some doubts about whether this morning's strikes were actually hitting anyone. They were shooting at a fairly open ridgetop with loose pine cover. The main trail runs right through it but it's hard to imagine an NPA unit moving through such exposed country in broad daylight the day after an encounter with helicopters known to be in the area. Normally they'd scoot at night or through heavy cover. Guess anything's possible though.

This one, late June, was more of a worry. Farther away, but south, which means the access/egress route was really close:

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/...killed-9-hurt/

It's not really getting worse, or better, just seems to ebb and flow. NPA is strongest in Abra, north of here, but they come over the mountain and stage an ambush now and then, I think largely to show they are a presence, and in hope that the military will get out into the villages and piss people off. The populace is pretty sympathetic and generally thinks better of the rebels than of the military (consequence of past abuses), but also prefers not to have the NPA around, as when they show up the military shows up too, and nobody wants the soldiers around.
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“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

H.L. Mencken

Last edited by Dayuhan; 08-30-2013 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 08-31-2013   #37
AdamG
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You allowed privately owned small arms?
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Old 08-31-2013   #38
Dayuhan
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Small arms can be legally owned here, with a fair number of restrictions. Illegal arms are commonplace. The NPA is of course illegal by definition. The citizenry is fairly well armed, though discreetly so. A bit northeast of here it's pretty common to see illegal arms openly displayed; here they are generally kept stashed. Police and military are aware of this but generally don't want to mess with it; they stirred up the hornet's nest once before and it didn't go well. The populace mostly stays neutral in the NPA/military fighting; they are (largely, not entirely) sympathetic to the NPA but not to the extent of going out to fight for them in the absence of any direct threat to their clan, village, or tribe.

As elsewhere in the Philippines, the main source of illegal arms and ammunition is leakage from police and military stocks.
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“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

H.L. Mencken
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Old 08-31-2013   #39
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Dayuhan,

Hope the troubles have ceased, it is bad enough when you're there my yourself, but the concerns obviously increase exponentially when your family is with you. Having fire arms to defend yourself from criminals makes sense, but not sure it would be wise to openly display a weapon in front of NPA militants. It could simply and unnecessarily escalate the situation, since the NPA normally don't target civilians. Trust you know their modus operandi in your area and can make judgment call based on that knowledge.

Interesting article on illicit gun trafficking in the Philippines.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/44717/il...in-philippines

Quote:
Philippine Customs data monitored by UN Comtrade and the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers show that the Philippines imported 265,149 guns valued at $90.9 million from 2000 to 2010. These are dwarfed by the sales documents of exporting countries that show the Philippines actually importing 434,999 guns valued at $182.9 million from 1996 to 2010.

The discrepancy, 169,850 firearms costing $92 million, leaks into the grey market. The corresponding loss of revenue is quite significant.
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Old 09-01-2013   #40
Dayuhan
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I don't see the NPA as a personal security threat at all; if I did I wouldn't be here. Of course you're right; having a weapon in the house isn't going to do a whole lot of good if a dozen guys with assault rifles come calling. Only real threat is the possibility of crossfire or just loose rounds flying around, but there hasn't been fighting that close to town here since the early 90s. Main personal impact is that when these things happen there are places I can't go for a while, some trails become dodgy and the wilderness area north becomes a good place to stay out of.

For the town, it's a concern because they make a fair bit of money from tourism and having a bunch of soldiers around is not good for the tourist trade. It's also awkward for locals when they are out doing things they do in the mountains and run into military patrols; the questioning is often quite aggressive and threatening, and people don't like it.

The whole dynamic of insurgency in the Philippines is very different from place to place, even in places that are quite close together. In some ways you have to look at it as a bunch of micro-insurgencies, each with its own characteristics (I suspect that the same applies to many other cases of what is generally perceived as "national" insurgency). In this immediate neighborhood it's heavily influenced by the reality that the tribes really do have full control over their land and resources, and don't need to ally with the NPA to fight off unwanted central government intrusion (as they did in the 70s/80s). In Abra province, a day's walk north of us, it's quite different.

In the 12 years I've been here I haven't felt personally threatened by any of it, hasn't been more than mildly unsettling. If things went back to the way they were from late 80s to early 90s, we'd move.
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“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

H.L. Mencken
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