After decades of insurgency, the Philippine government is making efforts to bring stability to the Bangsamoro, a majority-Muslim area in the country's south. In 2019, Manila granted the region self-rule, an important step on the road to peace, but the new autonomous entity faces challenges in managing the transition until parliamentary elections in 2025. Clashes still break out sporadically. Meanwhile, Manila's disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea continue, amid rising U.S.-Chinese strategic competition. Through field research and advocacy, Crisis Group works to support the Bangsamoro peace process and reduce maritime tensions in the Asia Pacific.
The newly autonomous area in the southern Philippines is progressing toward full self-rule, but delays in the associated peace process and renewed skirmishes are causing concern. With donor support, regional and national authorities should work to bolster the transition in advance of crucial 2025 elections.
Govt and Communist rebels struck deal to restart peace talks after six-year hiatus; insecurity continued in south amid local feuds and targeted killings.
Govt and communist militants agreed to reignite formal dialogue. Manila and National Democratic Front – umbrella organisation representing communist rebels, including main armed group New People’s Army (NPA) and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – 23 Nov struck deal following engagement in Norwegian capital Oslo, agreeing in principle to restart peace talks to achieve “peaceful resolution of the armed conflict”; formal talks between pair broke down in Nov 2017 under then President Duterte. Meanwhile, fighting persisted between govt security forces and NPA in Luzon Island (Mindoro) in north and Visayas Islands (Negros and Samar) in centre, killing at least ten combatants and civilians during Nov.
Insecurity persisted in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). In Maguindanao del Sur province, armed men associated with Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 118 Base Command and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) 7 Nov clashed in Tukanalipao village over existing feud; fighting lasted for days and injured six combatants as well as one civilian. In Basilan province, shooting attack 9 Nov killed member of Basilan Provincial Board near Sumisip District Hospital. In Sultan Kudarat province, gunmen 15 Nov killed school principal in ambush in Lambayong town. In Lanao del Sur and Sulu provinces, authorities 16 Nov arrested six suspected drug dealers and seized significant quantities of “shabu” (methamphetamines) during separate anti-drug operations. Bomb 25 Nov exploded in centre of Pikit town, wounding six Moro civilians.
Implementation of Bangsamoro peace deal progressed. President Marcos Jr. 14 Nov attended BARMM’s first local legislative general assembly, which he described as “historic” and “crucial to achieving our goal of achieving peace and progress” in region.
Time has passed since the time of Martial Law, and if you look at the demographics, it is mostly older Filipinos who remember and are opposed to BBM.
Despite its increasing focus on external threats, the Philippine government can’t afford to take the Bangsamoro peace process for granted.
On 9 May, residents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, part of the southern Philippines, voted in local elections. Organised in parallel to national polls, these contests pitted former rebels against powerful political clans, with an incomplete peace process hanging in the balance.
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.
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.
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.
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