Senate president 6 Nov filed Senate Bill 1608, a version of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) different from that drafted by Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described senate bill as “between a CAB [Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro]-compliant BBL and the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao law”. BTC, with support from MILF and Moro National Liberation Front Chairman Yusoph Jikiri, conducted Bangsamoro Assembly in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao 27 Nov; President Duterte pledged to address historical injustices suffered by the Bangsamoro and suggested special session in Congress to discuss BBL and other proposals. Despite Oct retaking of Marawi City and death of militant leaders including Isnilon Hapilon, authorities remained on high alert for possible attacks. Six soldiers killed 8 Nov in clash with Abu Sayyaf militants in Sumisip town, but MILF said it was a “misencounter” between soldiers and MILF fighters. Amid concerns about recruitment by remaining Islamic State (ISIS)-influenced groups, police 10 Nov arrested three Abu Sayyaf members suspected of planning to attack mid-Nov ASEAN summit in Manila. Police 6 Nov declared top Malaysian terrorist Sabahan Mohammad Amin Baco has succeeded Hapilon as ISIS regional leader, however military said Baco was killed during Marawi siege. Military 15 Nov launched airstrikes and ground operations against ISIS-linked Toraife faction of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak. Airstrikes in both Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces forced some 5,000 to flee. Amnesty International report 17 Nov said widespread rights abuses and war crimes committed by both Maute fighters and govt forces during Marawi siege. President Duterte 23 Nov signed proclamation ending peace talks with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), National Democratic Front (NDF) and New People’s Army (NPA), which broke down in May, and called NPA a terrorist group; Duterte next day asked for rebels who were freed earlier in year when talks restarted to surrender. Military 28 Nov killed fourteen NPA rebels in Batangas, follow-up to 20 Nov operation that seized NPA base.
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.