Economic losses from 1970 to 2001 almost equaled 2015 budget
The Mindanao war has cost the Philippine government a staggering P2.013 trillion during the 31-year period from 1970 to 2001, an amount nearly equivalent to the P2.606 trillion 2015 national budget.
This was disclosed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) based on the data it gathered from various sources, including the World Bank (WB).
The government spent some P73 billion to finance government forces in combat operations against the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from 1970 to 1996.
The years of fighting had killed nearly 120,000 people, excluding the tens of thousands of wounded from both sides and civilians caught in the crossfire. It was a bloody conventional warfare as the MNLF forces directly attacked military camps and installations.
Fifty percent of the casualties were MNLF while the military sustained 30 percent and civilians 20 percent killed during the period.
In terms of social welfare disruption, 982,000 were displaced during the 2000 all-out war.
One of the fiercest fighting happened in Jolo, Sulu in the first half of February 1974 when MNLF rebels attacked and burned the provincial capital and occupied it for days before they were driven out by government forces, particularly the 14th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army commanded by then Col. Salvador M. Mison.
The war ended when the Philippine government and MNLF signed the historic peace agreement on Sept. 2, 1996 during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos.
But the 1996 peace accord was disrupted when the breakaway group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) protested the signing and continued its war with the government.
A ceasefire was signed in 1997 but this did not last long when a new administration under President Joseph Estrada declared an all-out war against the MILF in the summer of 2000 after the rebels launched several attacks on military and civilian population.
After three months of fighting, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) captured practically all the 49 MILF camps in various parts of Mindanao and forced the rebels to withdraw.
The cost of the all-out war in 2000 that lasted for three months, more or less, was an enormous PhP1.3 billion in military operations.
In addition, the county incurred economic losses amounting to a staggering P640 billion or PhP20 billion per year from 1970 to 2001 in terms of damages to businesses and properties, potential investments and businesses in the region had there been better security (no war).”
While the war was won by the AFP, the fighting had not stopped as the MILF forces continued its armed struggle.
It was only during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that peace talks between the government and the MILF resumed sometime in 2004.
However, fighting erupted anew in 2008 when the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) about to be signed was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The renewed fighting had displaced some 600,000 people.
It was only in 2009 that the peace process reopened during the remaining six months of the Arroyo government and was pursued by a new administration under President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd in 2010 that resulted in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and MILF on March 27, 2014.
Under the agreement, the MILF would turn over their firearms to a third party, which would be selected by the rebels and the Philippine government. The MILF has agreed to decommission its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). In return, the government will establish an autonomous Bangsamoro.
The Aquino government is now asking Congress for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the legal instrument that will operationalize the agreements as contained in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on Oct. 15, 2012 and its annexes.
Once enacted by Congress, the BBL shall undergo a process of popular ratification by the qualified voters in the proposed core territory.
However, the BBL has suffered a setback following the bloody Mamapasano incident that killed 44 police commandos of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) tasked to serve a warrant of arrest for wanted international terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.
OPAPP is still hoping the controversial measure will be passed by Congress to end the long-drawn armed conflict in southern Philippines.