The Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed a peacebuilding framework that will guide the next critical parts in the negotiations for a genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao. While the framework agreement itself does not declare a permanent end to hostilities and the demobilization and disarmament of combatants, it represents a very significant step indeed, and generates momentum for a definitive peace agreement that is expected to be signed in a year’s time.
The critical yet unfinished parts of the negotiations include delivering an agreement on revenue generation and wealth creation, political power-sharing, and the difficult process of normalization (i.e. disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration). The GPH and MILF negotiators have also agreed that a transitional mechanism shall be established to draft a Bangsamoro basic law that will govern the new political entity that will emerge from the agreement.
The new framework agreement will help create positive conditions for a further decline in rebellion-related violence, enhanced investor interest in Muslim Mindanao, and increased inflows of development aid to the region. It also provides the impetus for joint GPH and MILF actions to deter spoilers from other armed groups and the region’s illicit and criminal enterprises, who may try to block the road to a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. Because of these qualities the new framework deserves widespread, unqualified support and recognition.
International Alert has been an active participant and a partner of the GPH and MILF negotiating panels in the quest for peace. We generated and shared critical analysis and information to both panels that tested the inclusiveness and feasibility of transition proposals, and helped lubricate the negotiations. We contributed to the difficult process of getting wider business and private sector understanding and support for the peace process, and facilitated the learning of both panels from other peacebuilding initiatives including those in Northern Ireland, Aceh, Indonesia, and Nepal. We also helped capacitate and develop a parallel communication strategy to drown out the biased, racist, and conflict-insensitive voices that tried to sow distrust and violence between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao. Finally, we contributed to the construction of a resilient civil society peace constituency. In all this we have worked closely with others in the peacebuilding NGO community, the government, business organizations, and the diplomatic and aid community. We have worked closely with fellow international organisations The Asia Foundation and Conciliation Resources to generate stronger impact on the peace process.
However, the quest for peace remains unfinished and the task ahead remains formidable. At International Alert, we plan to continue with our political mapping initiative, through which we aim to help generate understanding and support for the outcomes of the remaining negotiations from among key political players. Likewise we are ready to continue offering support and advice in planning and implementing practical transition measures in conflict-affected communities across Mindanao.
Alert has constantly raised the critical issue of new forms of violence that may emerge from Mindanao’s ethnic cleavages and fractured political structures, a task made more important in the face of increased hope and expectations provoked by the new framework agreement. We have underlined the risk of a violent response from those who may have an interest in sustaining violence in Mindanao – such as warlord clans, private armies, and the criminal syndicates at the heart of its illicit and illegal economies. We will continue to advise that these issues are adequately addressed in the negotiations that follow this significant breakthrough.