Monday, May 29, 2017

Manchester and Marawi

As we mark the anniversary of the Battle of Tsushima,  we may be witnessing an yet another battle with similar consequences for the balance of power in the Pacific. That battle is going on as we speak on Mindanao, where a government attempt to arrest a senior member of Abu Sayyaf has now become a protracted battle in the global war between established governments and the Islamic State.

As a global semiotic and political franchise, the Islamic State manifests in different forms according to what is possible. In Manchester, it's taken on the form of classic terrorism, but in an even more dramatic and lethal way. In Mindanao, Islamic State has manifested itself as part of a classic "Foco" insurgency, similar to those waged in Latin America in the closing decades of the last century.  In Southeast Asia,  the growth of Islamic State will likely be fueled by the same factors which have driven classic guerrilla war: the appropriation of popular reaction to poverty and repression as pretext to effect regime change.

"'Foreigners among fighters' who seized Mindanao city," Straits Times 27 May 2017
"There are... Malaysians, Singaporeans… in the fight that has been ongoing in Marawi. We are continuously verifying that there have been a number of them who have been killed," military spokesman Restituto Padilla said at a news conference here."

"ISIS not a figment of the President's imagination," Manila Times, 28 May 2017 
According to a report by Agence France-Presse, a security expert discussed extensively the creation of a militant base in Mindanao. “Currently, IS is moving towards creating a territory in southern Philippines. The most recent communication issued by IS has announced that they have formally declared an East Asia division of IS in the southern Philippines,” counter-terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said. 
“The instability in the southern Philippines and the availability of weapons, internal displacement, refugee flows … create the ripe conditions for foreign terrorists to come,” he told AFP after his speech.

"Urban warfare still a challenge for soldiers in Marawi," Rappler 27 May 2017
“We are in total control of the whole area but it’s not cleared due to the urban terrain,” Año told reporters at the sidelines of the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Philippine Army’s 2nd Mechanized Battalion headquarters in Barangay Maria Cristina late Friday afternoon. 
“We have to clear one step at a time, house to house, block by block,” added Año, who placed the number of Maute Group members occupying some structures and houses in Marawi at less than 100. 
He said soldiers use simple tactics in operating in a rural setting which cannot be applied to a city battle. “Here (Marawi) all it takes is for an armed person to position himself inside a building….It would take time before it could be cleared," Año said. 
To fast-track the clearing operations of the military, Año said more soldiers have been deployed to Marawi, but did not say how many.

'Marawi, martial law and the 2-track strategy," 29 May 2017
When Rodrigo Duterte became President, ... he adopted a two-track approach. He continued the existing peace processes, mainly in preparation for a new autonomous Bangsamoro region, one part of a possibly federal Philippines. He also gave marching orders to escalate the war against terrorists, above all the Abu Sayyaf.  
This two-track approach reflects a dual understanding of the situation: first, that there are legitimate entities fighting for  himethnonationalist aspirations and, second, that there are peace spoilers or criminal gangs using the mask of global terrorism to increase their “fear factor.” For the latter, he has made use of intensified military operations. 
But will this approach work? 
“From Hunger to Anger” tells us that for as long as the Philippines, especially Mindanao, remains “peripheral regions devoid of employment-generating and high-value-added industries … endemic poverty and economic underdevelopment will persist in the region.” Repeating the well-known wisdom, disenfranchised segments of the population who cannot access basic social services and decent economic opportunities will always be ripe for recruitment.

"Violence to worsen poverty in Lanao del Sur -experts," Business Mirror, 28 May 2017
Lanao del Sur, based on the 2015 Poverty Statistics, is the poorest province nationwide with a poverty incidence rate of 71.9 percent in 2015. This means that 7 out of 10 residents of the province are poor. 
The province’s capital city, Marawi, had a poverty incidence rate of 60 percent, based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Small Area Estimates in 2012. “Poverty depends on income and livelihood,” Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) senior research fellowJose Ramon G. Albert said. “Livelihood ultimately depends on peace, law and order, and a good investment climate.”

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