The Daily Mail reports that authorities received a tip that attackers were attempting to bomb the airport, one that led them to arrest three men– the number of arrests remains unclear, The Wire reports that four have been arrested– who appeared to be in the middle of constructing homemade explosive devices in the airport parking lot.
According to Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the airport was one of a number of targets, including SM Mall of Asia, a DMCI office building, and the Chinese Embassy in the financial district Makati. The first two targets include businesses owned by Chinese developers. The group responsible for the foiled plot, authorities noted, calls itself “USAFFE” and has begun protesting the Filipino government’s stance on China, which it believes to be too soft. Their name is taken from the United States Armed Forces in the Far East, a World War II reference.
The Manila Bulletin, the Philippines’ largest daily paper, reports that an unidentified man known as a “nuisance presidential candidate” may be the mind behind USAFFE. While Granduer Pepito Guerrero, a man arrested at Ninoy Aquino airport yesterday, claimed to be the “general” of the group, a source tells the paper an anti-China public figure may also be in charge of organizing the group. According to an “NBI insider” source, the group’s leader is a public figure “who had been very vocal in airing his distaste against the Chinese by burning Chinese flags when he declared his personal war against China at the start of the Chinese incursions over the West Philippine Sea.”
China and the Philippines have kept tense relations in the past year, as China has begun to claim territory near the archipelago. The Philippines warned earlier this year that it had evidence that China had begun constructing an airstrip on the South Johnson Reef, disputed territory China claims as its own, in addition to construction on the Spratly Islands, which also remain in dispute. In August, China unilaterally reclaimed three additional reefs in the South China Sea, to which the Philippines objected.
Adding to tension between the two nations was the recent arrest of eleven Chinese fishermen in disputed waters the Philippines claims as its own for violating the sovereignty of the nation. While the Philippines has continued to object to Chinese incursions in the South China Sea, China brushed at a recent pact made between the Philippines and the United States that would guarantee an American presence in the region for the next ten years.