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A New Strategy For Peace In The Philippines?


The Philippine government is experimenting with a creative but risky new strategy to resolve the conflict in Mindanao.

The Philippines: A New Strategy for Peace in Mindanao?, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, details the emerging strategy of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino’s administration for bringing peace to the southern Philippines. The government has three goals: to implement a two-year reform program to prove that good governance is possible in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); to combine separate talks with two insurgencies, the factionalised Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the larger, better-armed Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); and to lay the groundwork for a future Moro sub-state.


“Even if the government can manoeuvre all these elements into place, there is no guarantee that Aquino’s advisers have found the formula for peace that eluded previous administrations”, says Bryony Lau, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Analyst. “But a strategy without risk is certain to fail”.

The government has made the most progress on the first prong of its strategy: reforming the dysfunctional autonomous region. With the support of some Muslim civil society organisations, Congress postponed the 2011 ARMM elections until 2013. Presidential appointees will implement reforms over the next two years to prove that autonomy need not be synonymous with corruption, poverty and private armies. The government has agreed to appoint some members of the MNLF, who are unhappy their own 1996 peace agreement was never implemented, to this interim administration to entice them to cooperate.

There has been the least progress to date in talks with the MILF. More than a year after Aquino took office, the government has yet to reveal its hand on the core issues of the negotiations: the territory and powers of a future sub-state. Delays as officials try to juggle the other components of this strategy for peace may deepen MILF suspicions about the government’s motives. At the next round of talks in mid-August, it can allay these concerns by presenting its counter-proposal to the MILF draft submitted in February.

“The MILF prides itself on consistency, but consistency does not need to mean inflexibility,” says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “In the same way the Philippine government under Aquino is testing out a new approach, the MILF should keep an open mind about how a final settlement could be achieved as the talks move forward”.

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One thought on “A New Strategy For Peace In The Philippines?

  • August 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    This article indicates an amazing ignorance of the history of the Philippines. Since the signing of the Tripoli Agreement, which ended the war between the Northern Tagalog tribe which has the capitol of Manila, and the southern tribes of Mindanao, there has been no real peace. There has never been autonomy, not in fact, and so the low level sporadic fighting has continued to this day. What Aquino has in reality done is abrogate the Tripoly Peace Treaty. The Muslim tribes of Mindanao want no part of the Tagalog government, rife with corruption, it is an Autocracy of the ruling elite, and never a democracy. Poverty remains endemic throughout the islands under the exploitation of this ruling elite, all, Tagalog families. The Moro National Liberation Front MNLF signed the Tripoly agreement, and immediately in dissention, the Moro Independant Liberation Front was formed. The MILF has continued the fight when not under a peace agreement. With the failure of the Tripoli Agreement and the end of the sham Autonomous Region, the ranks of the MILF are swelling. This is a bold power grab by the Manila government which has dealt deceptively with the people of Mindanao from the beginning. There can be nothing but autonomy, if not outright freedom from a government with no representation, where government curricula would be imposed. The Muslims of Mindanao are not interested in their children going to government schools and learning Catholic prayer. They are not interested in having their languages suppressed as they are outside Mindanao with other tribes, a direct contravention of the United Nations Human Rights for children, which was signed in the same worthless manner as the Tripoli Agreement. The tribes of Mindanao had a nation prior to the Spanish Conquest. This nation first threw out the Spanish culminating in the death of Magellan. Spain returned, but wisely chose a tribe that was outside the nation, a tribe much weaker, the Tagalog tribe. The people of the old nation never submitted to the Spanish, they are not rebels. They fought the Spanish, then the Americans, then the Japanese. The southern tribes did not win, they did not lose. They will not submit to the Tagalogs. They are the tribes of the old nation, they were never Filipinos, never Philippino. They have no reason to accept submission now. There has never been a hand of friendship in equality offered, there has never been the respect of honest dialogue. There has been only dishonesty and deception, culminating in this grand betrayal.


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