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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.

CrisisWatch Philippines

Unchanged Situation

Low-intensity fighting between security forces and communist rebels continued, while violence persisted in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in south. Clashes between communist New People’s Army (NPA) and armed forces in Luzon in north, Visayas in centre and Mindanao in south continued, although at lower level of violence compared to April-May due to weakening of some NPA front units; at least 18 combatants and civilians killed throughout month. In BARMM, clan feuds continued in Pikit and Pagalungan municipalities, often involving Moro Islamic Liberation Front commanders, leaving several houses destroyed and hundreds displaced. In South Upi municipality, Maguindanao province, IED 22 June exploded targeting the town’s mayor who was unharmed. Clashes between soldiers and elements of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) 7-13 June continued in multiple provinces: four soldiers and two ASG militants killed and 17 injured in Pakitul, in Sulu province 5 June; one ASG militant killed during operations against drug syndicates in Bongao municipality in Tawi-Tawi province 7 June; two policemen killed and two injured after armed men attacked Parang police station in Sulu province 13 June. In Maguindanao province, members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters 9 June killed one soldier in Sultan Kudarat town. Despite delay in formal aspects of peace process due to COVID-19 outbreak, Bangsamoro Transition Authority 16 June resumed parliamentary sessions after temporary COVID-19 suspension. House of Representatives and Senate 8 June agreed on controversial “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” to be signed by President Duterte into law; human rights groups and other critics highlighted concern that police and military could resort to extended detention and more unchecked arrests. Authorities 15 June indicted social news network Rappler.com CEO Maria Ressa for cyber-libel; journalists, NGOs and UN Special Rapporteur on Free Speech David Kaye condemned verdict as attack on freedom of press. FM Teodoro Locsin Jr. 2 June announced govt suspended 11 Feb notice to terminate Visiting Forces Agreement with U.S., citing “political and other developments in the region.”

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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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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.

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Georgi Engelbrecht

Senior Analyst, Philippines

Katrina Auditor

Fellow, Philippines