Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999 - Philippines

The Communist Party of the Philippines New People's Army (CPP/NPA) broke off peace talks with the Philippine Government in June after the ratification of the U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which provides a legal framework for joint military training exercises between Philippine and US armed forces. The CPP/NPA continued to oppose a U.S. military presence in the country and claimed that the VFA violates the nation's sovereignty. Communist insurgents did not target U.S. interests during the year, but a Communist member told the press in May that guerrillas would target U.S. troops taking part in the joint exercises. Press reporting in September alleged CPP/ NPA plans to target US Embassy personnel at an unspecified time.

The CPP/NPA continued to target Philippine security forces in 1999. The organization conducted several ambushes and abductions against Philippine military and police elements in rural areas throughout the country. The CPP/NPA released most of its hostages unharmed by late April but still was holding Philippine Army Major Noel Buan and Philippine Police Official Abelardo Martin at yearend.

The Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB) – a breakaway CPP/NPA faction – claimed responsibility for a rifle grenade attack on 2 December against Shell Oil's headquarters in Manila that injured a security guard. The attack apparently protested an increase in oil prices.

Islamist extremists also remained active in the southern Philippines, engaging in sporadic clashes with Philippine Armed Forces and conducting low-level attacks and abductions against civilian targets. The groups did not attack US interests in 1999, however. The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) – redesignated in 1999 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization – in June abducted two Belgians and held them captive for five days before releasing them unharmed without ransom. The ASG still was working to fill a leadership void resulting from the death of Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who was killed in a clash with the Philippine Army on 18 December 1998.

The Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Philippine Islamist separatist group, marked the opening of peace talks on 25 October. Nonetheless, both sides continued to engage in low-level clashes. MILF chief Hashim Salamat told the press in February that the group had received from Usama Bin Ladin funds that it used to build mosques, health centers, and schools in depressed Muslim communities.

Distinguishing between political and criminal motivation for many of the terrorist-related activities in the Philippines was difficult, most notably in the numerous cases of kidnapping for ransom in the south. Both Communist and Islamist insurgents sought to extort funds from businesses or other organizations in their operating areas, often conducting reprisal operations if money was not paid. Philippine police officials, for example, said that three separate bomb attacks in August against a bus company in the southern Philippines may have been the work of extortionists rather than terrorists.


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