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Philippines Foil Bomb Plot Aimed at Airport, Chinese Targets

  • VOA News

An airport police officer and a sniffer dog patrol Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in metro Manila, Sept. 1, 2014.

An airport police officer and a sniffer dog patrol Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in metro Manila, Sept. 1, 2014.

Philippine police have arrested three men who were planning to carry out bomb attacks, apparently in protest at what they view as Manila's "soft" stance toward China.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the men were arrested Monday with an explosives-filled van at Manila's international airport, one of the men's four targets.

Manila Airport

Manila Airport

De Lima said the men also planned to attack the Chinese embassy, along with the DMCI construction group and the SM Mall of Asia, which are both run by Chinese-Filipino businessmen.

She said the men claim to belong to a group of current and past police, military and others who want to "defend" the Philippines from China, which is engaged in a territorial dispute with Manila.

"They want this administration ... to espouse a tougher stance in its dispute with China," de Lima said. She called it a "misguided group," saying "they claim to be 'defenders of the Filipino people' and consider China an 'oligarch taipan engaged in monopolistic business practices and illegal mining' as their enemies."

The group's name, USAFFE, is also the acronym given to the formerly Manila-based United States Army Forces in the Far East, which fought in World War II.

De Lima said authorities are investigating the size and capabilities of the alleged group. She also said the group's "real agenda" is being investigated, though she did not elaborate.

The Philippines and China are involved in a long-standing and worsening dispute over territory in the energy-rich South China Sea. Ships from each country are occasionally involved in standoffs or skirmishes, but no major clashes have occurred.

To help settle the dispute, Manila has filed an arbitration case against Beijing at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague. China rejected the move, saying the dispute should be resolved by direct negotiations.

The Philippines has for decades fought an insurgency in its southern islands, where Muslim militants are fighting for greater autonomy.

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