The U.S. still considers Philippines a vital partner against terrorism, according to a report by the U.S. Department of State.
According to a State department Country Report on the Philippines for 2011, which was released Wednesday, the Philippines "maintained its strong counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States."
This has hampered "the ability of terrorist groups, including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and the [Communist Party of the Philippines]/New People's Army (CPP/NPA), to conduct terrorist activities inside the Philippines,” it said.
Although the U.S. State department noted incidents of bomb attacks in Central and Western Mindanao, it said most of the groups "were generally limited to criminal activities designed to generate revenue for self-sustainment, such as kidnapping or extortion."
The U.S. also cited the five-year Philippine Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) that transfers internal security to the jurisdiction of the Philippine National Police. This included the creation of a national Crisis Action Force "that combined ground, air, and marine units into a unified terrorist/crisis first response unit" and joint task groups in Zamboanga, Sulu, and Basilan. A task force against kidnapping-for-ransom has also been established in Marawi City.
"The increasing role of the police in maintaining internal security in conflict-affected areas will permit the Armed Forces of the Philippines to shift its focus to enhancing the country's maritime security and territorial defense capabilities," the report said.
The U.S. State department also cited the country's Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) program as a way to counter radicalization. The program is meant to compelement ongoing peace talks with groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
According to the Office of the Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process, which implements Pamana, "the program’s main strategy is to bring back government to Pamana Areas, ensuring that the communities benefit from improved delivery of basic social services and are served by responsive, transparent and accountable government units."
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …