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CrisisWatch Philippines

Unchanged Situation

Clashes between Communist New People’s Army (NPA) and security forces continued in Mindanao and in central regions as govt continued efforts to initiate local level negotiations following termination of peace talks with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), while military operations continued against Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf Group in Mindanao. Speaking at campaign rally for 13 May general (not presidential) elections 13 April, President Duterte said he would create new peace panel to manage local-level negotiations with NPA. National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, established by Executive Order in Dec 2018, met for first time 15 April; Duterte ordered that cabinet member be assigned to each region to oversee peace and development efforts. Jose Maria Sison, exiled founding chair of CPP which has long rejected idea of local-level talks, described peace panel as “war panel”. Several military and suspected NPA fighters killed in clashes during month, including two NPA killed in Davao del Sur 5 April; three suspected NPA in Negros Occidental 17 April; at least six soldiers in Samar 23 April. UN Humanitarian Agency reported almost 50,000 displaced by military operations against BIFF and remnants of Maute Group in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur during last week of April. Military continued offensives against Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi; several police, soldiers and suspected Abu Sayyaf fighters killed in clashes; at least three Abu Sayyaf and two hostages killed following rescue attempt off Banguingui, Simisa Island 5 April. Security forces arrested two brothers in Cagayan, northern Luzon 28 March, first arrest of suspected ISIS sympathisers outside Mindanao. As part of “normalisation” annex of Bangsamoro peace agreement, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) 29 March announced it had submitted names of 12,000 fighters to be decommissioned, representing 30% of total fighters to be decommissioned. Police 4 April killed four MILF in “misencounter” in Lanao del Sur; MILF said it would investigate. Tensions increased with China over maritime disputes (see South China Sea).

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

19 Aug 2016
If [President] Duterte can move this [the peace deal] forward during this honeymoon period rapidly, it has a much better chance of going through. I think it's an opportunity that's a tragedy to lose. ABS-CBN News
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Latest Updates

Commentary / Asia

Philippines: Addressing Islamist Militancy after the Battle for Marawi

The Philippine city of Marawi, on Mindanao island, remains in ruins more than a year after a five-month jihadist takeover. To avoid fuelling militancy, Manila must involve locals in reconstruction, implement a 2014 deal with Mindanao separatists and go beyond efforts to counter jihadist ideology.

Op-Ed / Asia

Philippines Peace Process: Duterte Playing for High Stakes

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has put his weight unequivocally behind efforts to bring a negotiated end to more than four decades of conflict in the south of the country, but uncertainty is bleeding momentum from the process and the clock is ticking.

Originally published in The Interpreter

Op-Ed / Asia

The Philippines' Misguided Plan to Stop South China Sea Tensions

Cooperating on oil won't work - but fishing might.

Originally published in The National Interest

Op-Ed / Asia

Why Duterte Needs to Move Fast to End Decades-long Insurgency

The southern Philippines is potentially closer to peace than at any time in the four decades since Muslim insurgents started fighting for independence, but the substantial progress over the past six years is also fragile. The new President, Rodrigo Duterte, needs to build quickly on the foundations laid by the last administration or the process risks collapse.

Originally published in The Interpreter

Report / Asia

The Philippines: Renewing Prospects for Peace in Mindanao

Hopes are high that one of the world’s longest-running civil conflicts can be resolved in the Philippines. The newly-elected president must act on his commitment to the outgoing administration’s promise of autonomy for the southern Bangsamoro (Muslim Nation) population. Failure to do so risks more lawlessness or reigniting the insurgency.