International Alert’s programme in the Philippines is based both in Manila and Davao City, Mindanao. Locally led, in both locations we seek to work with our partners to advocate for peace-positive progress to be made by the new NoyNoy Aquino administration in Manila and with a wide range of other parties on the island of Mindanao, where there have been decades of conflicts involving the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front.
Taken together, the armed conflicts centred on Mindanao represent one of the most protracted ideological struggles in the world, and their roots can arguably be traced back through the preceding centuries of colonial involvement in the region.
Alert’s programme in Manila therefore centres on working with political leaders and policy makers in Mindanao, as they seek ways to build on the limited progress that has been made in recent years towards a cessation of violence on all sides, and to establish the foundations for sustainable peace in the long term.
Our programme in Davao City seeks to bring a wide range of individuals and organisations together to facilitate dialogue aimed at improving the economic and political situation in Mindanao. This involves, for example, helping the private sector to grow and the media to hold leaders to account in a manner sensitive to conflict.
Headquartered in Manila but with a subsidiary office in Davao City, Mindanao
The conflict in the Philippines has no internationally recognised starting point, but its historic roots in Mindanao and the Southern islands arguably arose as a result of the colonial expansion led first by the Spanish and later by the Americans in the 19th century. This was characterised by often brutal oppression and atrocities against the indigenous population.
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, two main conflicts emerged in the Southern islands based in nationalism and later communist and religious ideologies. These were met with a military response that was both harsh and largely ineffective, led by governments that were for long periods of time military dictatorships.
In recent years and administrations, although there has been some instability within Manila, the country has followed a democratic path since the fall of the Marcos regime in 1986, which itself followed a popular uprising.
The election of President NoyNoy Aquino in 2010 is arguably the most important opportunity for peace in the country since the election of the last President Aquino, the current president’s mother, who came to power in the aftermath of the 1986 revolt. Yet the massacre of over 50 people in Maguindanao, Mindanao in the run up to polling day was a tragic reminder of the cost of failure.
Alert works in the Philippines in multiple ways, including staging the groundbreaking Waging Peace conference in Manila, which brings peace advocates from across the country and the region to share ideas and strategies for building sustainable peace .
We also regularly engage with members of the Philippine Congress and new Aquino administration, along with our partners, offering perspectives from the ground to policy makers operating at the national level.
In Mindanao, we co-ordinate the Mindanao Multi-stakeholder Group (MMG), aiming to create an investment environment more conducive to inclusive economic growth, giving communities a greater stake in the local economy and sharing the benefits of the region’s natural resources. The dialogue also provides opportunities for communities living across dividing lines created by the armed conflict to communicate and build trust.
Our recent work in the country has also focused on an issue which poses a double-headed threat to the country: climate change. The changes already occurring in rainfall-associated flooding and the loss of farming areas could lead to greater levels of conflict, as populations forced out of areas migrate to those already inhabited by others. We see this as an opportunity for the country as a whole to unite against a common challenge and forge innovative ways of adapting to the changes already in progress and collaborating to meet future shocks.
Alert’s focus throughout the years has been to assist in creating conditions conducive to the pursuit of peace that is sustainable by engaging in appropriate, locally-owned and sustainable ways to advance the work for peace. This logic guides our approach at the national, local and, with respect to climate change, regional levels.