Between 17th-24th March International Alert, in cooperation with the UK Embassy in Manila, organised a study visit to the UK for a group of people currently working at technical level on the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines. The aim of their visit was to study the experience of the Northern Ireland peace process and the implementation of the peace agreement, as well as to look into the United Kingdom’s experience with devolution and study the various devolution arrangements with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
In addition to our long-standing work on the national conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and both the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the National Peoples’ Army (NPA), in 2009 Alert broadened its engagement in the Philippines to include the conflict in Mindanao.
At present, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process has reached a critical stage where prospects for an agreement seem to be in the offing. Yet, several barriers have to be overcome. A political mapping by Alert’s Philippines programme of Local Government Unit (LGU) executives and legislators shows significant opposition to potential compacts on constitutional change, security and policing, devolved powers, and electoral reforms. There is a dearth in initiatives that directly address these critical issues that can make or break an agreement, and meet the demands of both the GPH and the MILF panels, including GPH, for realistic and effective models that can enable a consensus.
The study visit was designed to fill this gap and provide relevant parties with tested models and real-life experiences from the Northern Ireland peace process. It is hoped that the practical lessons from the Northern Irish case will help opposing parties articulate their apprehensions, neutralise biases against a new political arrangement, and facilitate bureaucratic momentum that can secure wider acceptance of its outcomes. The NI peace process is particularly useful for the learning it imparts on processes of devolution and power-sharing, and the implementation of joint agreements for disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration.
During their visit, the delegation met with senior members of the main political parties that have been leading the negotiations within the Northern Ireland peace process; members of Parliament, of the National Assemblies and the House of Lords; former and current members of central and devolved governments who have been responsible for implementing various aspects of the peace agreement; technical staff of the Northern Ireland Executive in Belfast; specialist teams of the Police Service of Northern Ireland; experts on disarmament and decommissioning of weapons from the former International Independent Commission on Decommissioning; representatives of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales Offices; non-governmental organisations, and academics and independent experts on these issues.
The visiting delegation was comprised of four members coming from the Philippines Senate and House Committees on Peace and Reconciliation, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF): Ellen Cancio, Committee Secretary, House Committee on Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation; Ambrosio M. Manaligod, Jr., Committee Secretary, Senate Committee on Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation; Ali Buisan, Head of Secretariat, MILF; Atty. Suharto Ambolodto, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Government of Philippines. The delegation was accompanied by the Desk Officer for Mindanao from the UK Embassy in Manila, Shane Male, and by one of Alert’s Senior Advisers who facilitated the visit in the UK.
This trip was organised through the support of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Manila.