Pro-Islamic State militants hold students hostage in Southern Philippines

A hostage situation erupted when pro-Islamic state militants stormed a school in Southern Philippines on Wednesday.  300 armed men including members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) ambushed the school which is situated in  Pigcawayan,a province on Mindanao Island in Philippines. Several students were reportedly held captive though the hostage situation did not last long as the militants retreated after a gun battle with the military. There were no casualties reported.

The attack is a possible consequence of the continued tension between the government troops and the Islamist militants which has been present for almost 5 weeks. Realan Mamon, Chief inspector of the Pigcawayn town stated that the attack was a tactic to ease pressure on the militants already present in Marawi. The Marawi crisis has worried Southeast Asian nations because of the Islamic states’ growing stronghold in certain regions of the Philippines which poses a threat for the rest of the country. The Philippine troops continue to launch attacks against the militants in Marawi to ensure their elimination by Eid on June 26th.

 

Sources: Scroll, The Australian

 

Rodrigo Duterte admits to personally killing drug addicts

In a startling revelation, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted to personally killing drug users and criminals during his tenure as Mayor of Davao.

Duterte made this announcement during a speech in the Presidential palace, where he was discussing his war on drugs in Philippines. He used to patrol the city at nights looking for a confrontation to ‘kill’ drug addicts.

According to Duterte, he wanted to send a strong message to drug addicts in Philippines. As mayor, he told the police officers under him, “If I can do it, why can’t you”.

After assuming Presidency on June 30, 2016, the police administration under him has killed approximately 5000 people in an effort to crack down on the growing drug menace in Philippines. Masked assailants have also been reported to sneak into the homes of suspected drug traffickers and kill them.

In an earlier speech, Duterte compared himself to Adolf Hitler, where he said he would be ‘happy to slaughter’ three million criminals and drug users. Within just five months into his Presidency and anti-drugs campaign, the United Nations and the United States have severely condemned his decisions of killing suspected criminals. Firmly defiant, the former mayor said that he will not apologize for his measures.

SOURCES: The Independent, The Guardian

Image Source: Getty Images

No Military solution to South China Sea dispute : John Kerry

US Secretary of State, John Kerry had stated at IIT Delhi that there can be no military solution to South China Sea dispute. John Kerry asked China and Philippines to abide by the ruling of the international tribunal on the dispute. He also mentioned the fact that China can learn from India to abide by international tribunals’ judgments hinting at the peaceful resolution of India-Bangladesh maritime disputes.

Kerry mentioned that “enormous energy” has been spent in the aftermath of  World War 1 and World War 2 in order to build up the world so it is important for us to respect the international law and support regional stability and prosperity.

Beijing has thus far refused to observe the decision made by the international arbitration tribunal. Beijing has earlier vowed that  it would take all measures to protect its sovereignty over South China sea.China has modified these islands into military bases despite an earlier tribunal at Hague ruling that China has no economic rights over various areas of South China Sea through which $ 5 million trade goes through annually. Various countries such as  Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims over it.

Read more at: TOI 

More contentious than ever, the South China Sea.

It looks like there is a bully in the classroom. China has been the major claimant of several areas within the territory of the South China Sea (SCS) and South Asian nations have finally run out of patience; they seek the help of international law to keep China at bay. But never has China been known to bow down that easy.

Several countries of South Asia have been in mêlée against China over territorial issues within the South China Sea; at least ten confrontations of China with Philippines over the past year is only an example of what has been happening for a while now. Five other nations, namely Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, who are also part of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), have long realised that they have little ability to stand up to Chinese domination as far as regional organisation is concerned. Where on one hand China’s military prowess has only gained momentum over the past years, the unity of the ASEAN countries (or the glaring lack of it) seems to be making them more vulnerable.

With The Hague now ruling in favour of Philippines, the country is now in a conundrum over its diplomatic stand. Its lack of naval muscle is forcing the government to maintain diplomacy with China, and at the same time, lean toward the US for military sustenance.

As if there were scope for more competition in the South China Sea, Russia will now be joining China for joint exercises, which is alarming indeed. The growing influence of yet another world superpower in the area is now hinting toward what might be more aggressive conflicts in the future over the already disputed territory.

Philippines made it clear in the past that it is independent of US influence. However, with current developments threatening its dignity, it seems like making US an ally has become the country’s priority. The US’s involvement in this issue will guarantee that the Southeast Asian countries remain indebted to it, and rely on it to bring them justice in case of any international crisis such as this. The US is perhaps depending on this to build further relationships with the ASEAN countries.

A build up of tension with China has provided a diplomatic cover for other American interest in the region (The territory is rich in oil reserves). Since ASEAN countries have turned to US for help, it now has a valid reason to linger and probably seek to serve its own motives.

One cannot deny that US intervention might indeed be necessary, since China leaves no opportunity to project its mighty military dexterity, which now combined with Russia has become even more threatening. But will the United States remain faithful to its rationale behind entering the South China Sea, or will it get swayed by the delicious lure of natural resources and a desire to project itself as the superior power, remains to be seen. Growing military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing needs to be kept under global observation, and while China is a country to be wary of, so is the United States.

International Tribunal rejects China’s claim to South China Sea

China’s claims to economic rights across the large areas of South China Sea were dismissed by the International Tribunal at The Hague and the judgement was passed in favour of Philippines.
Philippines had contested China’s increasing claims over territories in the South China Sea and had filed the case in January 2013 after a tension filled standoff between their ships and the Chinese ships at Scarborough Shoal in April 2012.
Due to the court’s verdict, China has lost key reefs and atolls which it had claimed would give them strategic control over the contested waters. China has been absent throughout the proceeding, and has refused to even recognize the case or the verdict.
The Court referred to a demarcation line on a 1947 map of the sea and said in the 497 page judgement, “There was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”
The final decision is that Philippines has the exclusive sovereign right to the West Philippine Sea and therefore China’s nine dash claim is invalid.
Read more at: Theguardian