After decades of insurgency, the government of the Philippines is making efforts to deliver peace to Mindanao in the south of the country. Although the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in 2019 can be seen as an initial success on the road to peace, this entity is faced with a difficult task in managing the transition until the 2022 elections. Violence continues between the government and several armed groups, including ISIS-affiliated elements and the communist New People's Army. Through field research and advocacy, Crisis Group works to support the peace processes, promote strategies designed to limit the space for jihadist recruitment and mobilisation, and strengthen social cohesion in Mindanao.
After months of campaigning, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., son of the notorious ex-dictator, will take presidential office in the Philippines at the end of June. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Georgi Engelbrecht explains the vote’s implications for the country’s internal security and foreign policy.
Clashes between authorities and militants continued in south, while lethal violence between govt and communist rebels rose, leaving at least 25 dead. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in south, clashes between militants and authorities continued through month. Notably, in Basilan province military 2 April launched operation against alleged members of Abu Sayyaf Group in Sumisip town, causing two militant casualties; Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) claimed some of targeted fighters were its own, in second such claim made by MILF in two months following clashes between military and alleged Abu Sayyaf Group militants. In Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, military 18 April killed MILF combatant in Datu Kilay village after rebels allegedly fired upon military; MILF accused govt of raiding community. Both incidents come amid stable but stalled peace process. Govt 8 April extended mandate of International Monitoring Team monitoring peace process with MILF until end of June 2022. Militant surrenders from other armed groups continued during April. Notably, two Abu Sayyaf Group militants 5 April laid down arms in Sulu province, while govt figures 12 April showed two Islamic State-affiliated Maute Group militants surrendered in Piagapo municipality, Lanao del Sur province. Meanwhile, clashes between armed forces and communist New People’s Army continued; in marked uptick from March, violence in Mindanao Island in south, Visayas Islands in centre and Luzon Island in north led to at least 25 combatant and civilian fatalities. In Marawi province, presidential candidate and son of former dictator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. 2 April expressed confidence in rebuilding Marawi city before President Duterte steps down in June. Duterte 27 April signed into law measure that will provide tax-free monetary compensation for people who died and lost their properties during Marawi events in 2018. Preparations continued for general election scheduled for 9 May; polling conducted mid-to-late month showed Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. with comfortable lead in presidential race.
The transition to self-rule in the Bangsamoro, the majority-Muslim region in the southern Philippines, is proceeding apace. Militants outside the associated peace process are losing strength but could recover. Regional and national authorities should do all in their power to keep that from happening.
The peace process in the Bangsamoro, the newly autonomous region in the southern Philippines, is making progress. But several groups, including minorities and women, could be better represented. Donors should join hands with interim authorities to ensure that self-rule delivers for all the area’s residents.
The maritime dispute between China and the Philippines is simmering against the backdrop of strategic competition between Beijing and Washington. To keep tensions below boiling point, Manila should push for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as well as greater regional cooperation.
Peace in the Philippines’ majority-Muslim region requires disarming 40,000 ex-rebels and encouraging economic development where they live. But progress toward these goals, together called “normalisation”, is sputtering. Both Manila and the former insurgents need to hit the accelerator lest the process lose momentum entirely.
Elections in 2022 will bring an autonomous regional government to the Bangsamoro, a part of the southern Philippines long riven by rebellion. To prepare for the 2014 peace deal’s last test, the area’s interim self-rule entity needs to accommodate the big families that dominate its politics.
The new autonomous Bangsamoro region in Muslim Mindanao promises to address longstanding local grievances and drivers of militancy in the Philippines. But the Bangsamoro leadership faces steep challenges in disarming thousands of former militants, reining in other Islamist groups and transitioning from guerrillas to government.
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.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Crisis Group’s Philippines expert, Georgi Engelbrecht, to discuss President Rodrigo Duterte’s legacy.
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a bill doubling the length of the political transition in the new autonomous entity in the southern Philippines. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Georgi Engelbrecht explains why the extension is welcome news.
Officials in The Hague have announced a formal investigation into alleged state crimes committed as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s aggressive counter-narcotics campaign in the Philippines. For several reasons, as Crisis Group expert Georgi Engelbrecht explains, the enquiry will face an uphill battle.
Delays in the decommissioning of Moro rebels and other measures threaten the fragile peace in the newly created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
Originally published in The Diplomat