Manila’s Focus on External Defense Needs Peace in Mindanao
Manila’s Focus on External Defense Needs Peace in Mindanao
Op-Ed / Asia 1 minutes

Manila’s Focus on External Defense Needs Peace in Mindanao

Despite its increasing focus on external threats, the Philippine government can’t afford to take the Bangsamoro peace process for granted.

As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. met with Joe Biden in Washington last week to boost economic ties and bilateral defense cooperation, the Philippine military launched airstrikes and mortar attacks on marshy militant hideouts in the autonomous Bangsamoro region, on the country’s southernmost island of Mindanao. At a time when Manila, increasingly caught up in the geopolitical realities of the U.S.-China rivalry, is shifting its attention to external defense, continued military operations provide a stark reminder that the peace process in Bangsamoro should not be taken for granted.

The militants targeted by recent security operations were not part of the 2014 Peace Agreement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Moro rebel movement in Mindanao. However, they are part of a mosaic of actors, among them political strongmen, militants, private militias, and frustrated MILF ex-combatants, that are contributing to violence in the region, threatening the success of the peace process. Although the Philippines faces several internal challenges, including Asia’s oldest communist insurgency and political violence, Mindanao remains at the forefront of the country’s security concerns.

Spread across six provinces, two cities and one special administrative area, Bangsamoro is home to more than 4.5 million people of different ethnolinguistic and religious communities, political clans, and insurgent groups, as well as many ex-rebels. Its road to peace has been a challenging one. 

The full article can be read on the The Diplomat's website.

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