A conflict monitoring system developed by International Alert Philippines (IAP), a nongovernment organization, now covers more provinces in Mindanao, enabling a more comprehensive analysis of conflict and better formulation of interventions and development plans.
Conflict Alert, which was launched Tuesday, covers the 15 provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Davao Region and Caraga, as well as Cotabato and Isabela cities.
“These regions are major sites of rebellion and insurgency, criminal violence, and shadow economy-based conflicts. With this new system, we can generate the evidence to check the causes and costs, and trends and directions of violent conflict in these three regions. This will greatly help in policy making, development planning and peacebuilding for these areas,” said Francisco J. Lara Jr., IAP country manager, said.
Conflict Alert combines the Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS) and the Southern and Eastern Mindanao Conflict Database (SEMCD).
The BCMS, launched in 2013, covered the ARMM and Cotabato and Isabela cities. It pioneered systematic conflict monitoring but its analysis was bounded by its geographic reach. The SEMCD, launched in 2015, extended the analysis to the Davao and Caraga regions.
Conflict Alert is funded by the Korea Trust Fund for Economic and Peace-Building Transitions, World Bank, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Royal Norwegian Government.
Data gathered from 2011 to 2015 showed that most of the conflicts in the ARMM are related to the informal economies, particularly the trade in illegal weapons and drugs. In the Davao region, most cases of violence stemmed from common crimes such as robbery, alcohol intoxication and community-level disputes over properties.
While conflicts due to shadow activities and violence from common crimes are more numerous, the deaths they cause are less compared to conflicts arising from political issues such as rebellion or clan feuds.
There were more conflict deaths in the ARMM than in the Davao region. The deadliest province was Maguindanao, where clashes involving the separatist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters had claimed many lives especially in 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, Sulu has overtaken Basilan in terms of conflict deaths as government forces bore down on the Abu Sayyaf based in the province.
In the Davao Region, Compostela Valley and Davao del Sur posted the highest conflict deaths, mainly due to political conflict related to the communist insurgency.
In the ARMM, conflicts are concentrated in cities such as Cotabato and Marawi and in large towns such as Parang, while in the Davao region, these are in the cities of Tagum, Digos and Panabo, and in big towns such as Nabunturan.
The Conflict Alert findings showed the need for a political settlement in the form of a law that establishes the Bangsamoro, as well as an agreement with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-New Democratic Front since it will have knock-on effects on the scale of violence. Peacebuilding initiatives targeting crime, violence and instability are also needed with emphasis on rebellion and peacebuilding organizations must invest in research, conflict monitoring, and peace advocacy in the major cities and municipalities of Mindanao.