Senate completed its consultations on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) while House of Representatives scheduled public hearings in Mindanao from 1-16 March; legislators hope BBL will be ready for voting before Congress goes on recess 24 March. BBL supporters asked legislators to approve a version of BBL that reflects 2014 peace agreements. Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil Tan 23 Feb reiterated that passage of BBL will provide current regional govt in Mindanao much-needed boost to prepare for when national govt shifts to federal system. Congress also continued to tackle planned shift from presidential to federal system of govt; President Duterte 25 Jan appointed top magistrates, lawyers, academics and former officials to consultative body on charter change, including Randolph Parcasio, lawyer of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and founding chairman Nur Misuari. Rehabilitation of Marawi city following 2017 siege continued to face challenges, with local NGOs and ethnic Maranao Muslim traditional leaders opposed to govt’s plan to construct second military camp near main battle area. Marawi residents called on govt to pay them reparation for destroyed properties and allow them to rebuild their own homes. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim 20 Feb warned that ISIS-linked terrorists (including foreign nationals), with guns and cash looted from Marawi, could seize cities like Iligan and Cotabato; said MILF was battling pro-ISIS groups for influence in schools, and repeated his plea for govt to approve BBL immediately. Police 16 Feb arrested Fehmi Lassqued, Egyptian believed to be ISIS recruiter. Six Abu Sayyaf members killed in clash with govt troops in Basilan 24 Feb; authorities arrested Juromee Dongon, widow of slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan, during raid in Tubod, Lanao Del Norte 25 Feb. Military 25 Feb overran Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters camp in North Cotabato.
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.
The Philippines has had some recent success in winding down decades-long negotiations with rebel groups, but achieving peace with the country’s biggest insurgency, in Mindanao, requires both new energy and fresh thinking.
The next round of talks between the Philippines’ largest Muslim insurgent group and the government is a crucial step towards implementing a sweeping peace agreement signed in October.
Politics in the Sulu archipelago could be an unforeseen stumbling block for a negotiated peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the southern Philippines.
The Philippine government and Muslim rebels need to take concrete steps to address the precarious situation of indigenous peoples, known as the Lumad, to secure their support for the peace process on the southern island of Mindanao.
The Philippine government is experimenting with a creative but risky new strategy to resolve the conflict in Mindanao.
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.
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
Cooperating on oil won't work - but fishing might.
Originally published in The National Interest
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.