Mindanao ‘closer to peace’

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THE troubled southern island of Minda­nao is potentially closer to peace than at any time in four decades since Muslim insurgents started fighting for indepen­dence, according to a published report by a transnational independent organization.

But the report said the substantial progress over the past six years is also fragile.

It warned that the greatest danger to peace is that the restive South will lose faith in the process and return to guerrilla warfare or tip deeper into lawlessness.

The study recommended that the most effective way of avoiding these dangers is for the new government to pass enabling legislation that delivers as much autonomy as promised by the Aquino administration.


The report, titled “The Philippines: Renewing Prospects for Peace in Mindanao,” was published by the International Crisis Group (ICG) and funded by the European Union (EU).

It was a result of more than a year of research where dozens of stakeholders–from key figures in both the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to community activists, to ordinary citizens of Bangsamoro–were interviewed.

Tim Johnston, Asia program director for the ICG, said the Duterte administration needs to move fast with practical measures, including substantial financial support, to convince skeptical constituencies that Manila is still committed to the key promises made in the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, and will deliver tangible material benefits.

“The next few months will make or break this process,” Johnston told a recent roundtable discussion hosted by the EU delegation in Manila.

The report highlighted the group’s particular concern at the prospects for Bangsamoro youth.

The conflict, it said, has limited the educational, economic and social prospects of the young Muslims, who have most to gain from a successful peace deal and the most to lose from a long hiatus.

Adding to the concern, the report added, is the active recruitments by Islamic State and other self-described jihadist groups and their calls to foment disorder outside the Middle East.

Although passing a basic law to grant autonomy to Bangsamoro will be a critical step, it is only one step in a long journey, the ICG said.

It added that it will be crucial to win the support of the broader Philippine population and follow through to ensure that the economic and social dividends of peace are felt by all.

International assistance and investment from organizations such as the EU and individual countries can play a key role in this process.

The European Union has been a key partner for both the peace process in southern Philippines and ICG.

 

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  1. It is doubtful whether other major stakeholders in the Bangsa Moro region were considered in the reported research study. There exists significant sectors in the region that have never been supportive of Moro nationalists, reformists or seccessionists. Their ultimate dream have always been the integration and assimilation of the people of the region into the national body politic. That in some respects is hardly achievable.

    However, has there ever been any serious consideration of having their real aspirations included in any Bangsa Moro related talks. It is always assumed that MNLF and MILF leaderships have the sole authority to represent the region. Question: Are the duly elected officials in the region not capable of representing their respective constituents?

    The primary hindrance to total peace in Mindanao can be traced back to shadowy interests of successive Philippine Government administrations that has continuously injected landless non- Muslms to the region. This is clearly evidenced by the creation of provinces and municipalities that are largely populated by migrants from the Northern and Central Philippines. In a way that dilutes the native demography of the region and pushing further the natives into being marginalized. Somehow the cycle grinds back to unpeaceful means if only to attract national and international attention! Surely as Moro history has proven, there has never been a dearth of leadership among the Moro people!